SLOWLY becoming a force in the world judo scene, Filipino-Japanese Kiyomi Watanabe has one goal in mind, and that is the Olympics.
The 20-year-old Watanabe has been on a tear this year, winning three medals in different international competitions that have earned her a world rank of No. 27 in the -63 KG category.
She had a bronze medal finish in the Paris Grand Slam 2017 on Feb. 11 and then snagged a silver medal seven days later in the Oberwart European Open 2017. She then capped off the first half of the year with a gold medal in the Taipei Asia Open 2017 on July 8. She was ranked as high as 23rd in her division.
“My goal is any medal in the Olympics,” said Watanabe yesterday.
Watanabe could earn her ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by piling up enough points in international contests. With the all out support of her mother, Irene Sarausad Watanabe, the Philippine Judo Federation (PJF) and the Philippines Sports Commission (PSC), her Olympic dream isn’t far from impossible.
“Wherever she wants to go, we’ll support that,” said basketball legend and PSC commissioner Mon Fernandez. “She has the attitude, the focus. She never stops training.”
PJF president Dave Carter is confident of Watanabe’s skills and believes that she’s a world-class judoka.
“She isn’t a reject. She’s actually recruited by some of the top universities in Japan. She preferred choosing Waseda University, wherein she has defeated other (Japanese) national team players in her division. We are very proud of her,” said Carter.
Watanabe first suited up for the Philippines in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Indonesia in 2011. As a 15-year-old, she had an impressive bronze medal finish. She returned and won gold medals in the next two SEA Games in Myanmar in 2013 and in Singapore in 2015.
“Japan tried to pick her up for the national team. I gave here a month to decide but she said that didn’t want to represent Japan,” said Irene.
Watanabe is representing the Philippines yet again in this month’s SEA Games and is eying a third straight gold medal finish.
“I don’t want to say I will try. I will, go for the gold,” said Watanabe. (EKA)