Three-time Southeast Asian Games (SEA) champion Kiyomi Watanabe guns for medal in the prestigious 2017 World Judo Championships being held at the László Papp Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary.
Watanabe is in Pool C of the women’s 63 kg. event with 12 other judokas.
She’s one of the four seeded players in the group who earned an automatic spot in the second round. Also securing opening-round byes are world No. 2 Kathrin Unterwurzacher of Austria, world No. 7 Katharina Haecker of Australia and Mia Hermansson of Sweden.
Watanabe awaits the first-round winner between American Lelani Akiyama and Madagascar’s Damiella Nomenjanahary.
It will be an uphill battle for Watanabe as she needs to win five times to win the gold.
“It’s an important tournament for her because it’s a ranking tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She needs to earn more points to qualify [for the Olympics],” said Watanabe’s mother Irene.
At present, Watanabe is ranked 25th in the world with 849 points.
Early this year, Watanabe bagged a gold in the Asian Open Women’s Judo Championship in Taiwan, silver in the European Open Women’s Judo Championship in Austria, and bronze in the Paris Grand Slam-International Judo Federation World Tour in France.
Meanwhile, Malaysia SEA Games bronze medalists Shugen Nakano and Neisei Nakano failed to advance in their respective weight classes in the men’s division.
Shugen lost to Nathan Katz of Australia in the second round of the 66 kg. category in Pool A while Keisei also suffered a second-round setback to Dirk Van Tichelt of Germany in Pool D of the 73 kg. event.
The national judo team just accomplished a two-gold, three-bronze medal haul in the SEA Games.
Besides Watanabe, the other gold medalist was 16-year old Mariya Takahashi who stunned four-time SEA Games champion Surattawa Thongsri of Thailand to claim the top honors in the women’s -73 kg.
Sydney Sy also chipped in a bronze in the women’s -78 kg. on top of the Nakano brothers’ third-place finishes.
EMIL C. NOGUERA