Two-time Southeast Asian Games champion Kiyomi Watanabe bagged the country’s lone gold medal in the 2017 Taipei Asia Open Judo Championship held in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
Watanabe bested Chika Kudo of Japan in the gold-medal match to claim the top honors in the women’s 63-kilogram category.
Watanabe, 20, whose mother is from Toledo City, Cebu made it to the finals by ousting Cheng Yu Ching of Taiwan in the semifinals.
She also beat Haruno Oto of Japan in the quarterfinals.
The Filipino-Japanese bet secured an opening round bye in the tournament sanctioned by the International Judo Federation that drew 118 judokas from 14 countries including the United States, Russia, Australia, Canada, Colombia and South Korea.
“It’s a great performance heading into the Southeast Asian Games come August. She really wanted to win a third-straight gold medal in the SEA Games. She prepared hard and practiced all-year round,” Watanabe’s mom Irene said.
Watanabe has undergone serious training in the past months and also competed in various tournaments.
“She worked so hard to get into tip-top shape. We just hope that all those sacrifices would pay off. I would like to thank the Philippine Judo Federation and the Philippine Sports Commission for supporting her,” added Irene.
Watanabe earned a silver medal in the 2017 European Open Women Championship in Oberwart, Austria and a bronze in the 2017 Grand Slam Paris in France.
EMIL C. NOGUERA