Three-time Southeast Asian Games judo champion Kiyomi Watanabe moved up in the International Judo Federation world ranking to strengthen her chances of qualifying to the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo, Japan.
The Filipino-Japanese judoka is now ranked 22nd in the world in the women’s -63 kg. division after collecting 1,162 points she earned in different big international competitions sanctioned by the world judo federation.
Watanabe is fresh from winning her third-straight gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia following her impressive demolition of Orapin Senatham of Thailand in the championship round.
“She’s more matured now. Her mindset is quite different this time, she’s in high spirits and I can see fire and determination during the training. We want to express our gratitude to the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Judo Federation for supporting Kiyomi,” said Watanabe’s mom Irene, a Toledo, Cebu native.
Early this year, Watanabe won a gold in the Asian Open Women’s Judo Championship in Taiwan, a silver in the European Open Women’s Judo Championship in Austria, and a bronze in the Paris Grand Slam-International Judo Federation World Tour in France.
The 21-year old Watanabe reached the third round of the prestigious 2017 World Judo Championships held at the László Papp Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary in August.
Watanabe needs to make it to the Top 12 to earn an automatic berth in the Tokyo Olympics.
“Kiyomi is actually in the Top 15 right now since the international federation only allow one direct slot per country. We’re really optimistic that should could make it to the Olympics. We are closely monitoring her diet and health to make sure that she’s in top condition,” added Irene.
Philippine Judo Federation President Dave Carter and the Philippine Sports Commission headed by Chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez in cooperation with Commissioner Mon Fernandez has already mapped out a plan on Watanabe’s ‘road to the Olympics’ program.
Watanabe will be sent to different international tournaments to earn more points.
In the last quarter of the year, Watanabe is slated to compete in three tournaments including two International Judo Federation World Tour Grand Slam events.
She will compete in the Grand Slam-United Arab Emirates on October 22 to 26 in Abu Dhabi and the Grand Slam-Japan on December 1 to 5 in Tokyo then in Hong Kong on December 6 to 12 for the Asian Judo Open Championships.