Watanabe begins Olympic qualifying journey in Portugal

Kiyomi Watanabe judo

FILE – Kiyomi Watanabe of the Philippines. INQUIRER PHOTO / Sherwin Vardeleon

Kiyomi Watanabe is clearly disgusted with the way her first Olympic trip in Tokyo unfolded two years ago, but the country’s top judoka has never been discouraged and is more determined than ever for a comeback. Summer Olympics in Paris 2024.

“I am sure there will be more athletes who want to qualify for Paris because the health regulations (due to COVID-19) have been relaxed. I expected stiffer competition for a spot,” Watanabe said in Japanese.

Spain’s Cristina Cabana Perez eliminated Watanabe in the 32nd round via “ippon” in just 38 seconds in Tokyo. “After losing that match, I promised to qualify again in Paris and win that medal for the Philippines,” said Watanabe, the predictor. reclaiming his throne at the Southeast Asian Games (SEA) in Cambodia is just four months away.


The silver medalist of the 2018 Asian Games in the women’s -63 kg category will continue her hunt for an Olympic spot starting with the International Judo Federation Grand Prix in Portugal at the event. from January 27 to 29, the first meeting of the 2023 World Judo Tournament.

Watanabe, 26, whose mother is from Mandaue City, Cebu, has a tough task ahead of her as she needs to rank among the world’s top 17 in her weight class to claim the direct right, or at least the finish line. in 10th place in the Asia leaderboard competition before the qualifying round ended.

“They have to meet the cut-off quota by June 2024. There is no fixed number of points, but they must be among the top competitors in each event,” said Philippine Judo Federation Secretary General David Carter. .

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Watanabe, a four-time SEA Games gold medalist, was unable to defend his title at last year’s SEA Games due to a leg injury, but is currently in good form for the qualifiers.

Several year-long European and Asian tournaments are marked as Olympic qualifying events where Watanabe can collect as many ranking points as possible alongside his Japanese Filipino siblings Shugen and Keisei Nakano , who are also dreaming of a competition in Paris.

Watanabe, who has dropped to 117th in the world rankings, and the Nakano twins are also heading to the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, in September to boost their rankings before being eliminated. out of Olympic qualifying.

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