Watanabe virtually clinches Olympic berth—and another PH judoka could join her in Tokyo
Kiyomi Watanabe has practically pinned down a slot in the Tokyo Olympics. But the bell making it final and official has yet to ring.
Filipino judo officials said on Saturday that until the complications brought in by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic are finally smoothed out, no formal announcements could be made yet.
And if all goes according to plan, the Filipino-Japanese Watanabe might not be the only judoka earning an Olympic berth.
Once the qualification becomes official, the 23-year-old four-time Southeast Asian Games champion would be the fifth Filipino to make the Games following gymnast Carlos Yulo, pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno.
Watanabe’s virtual qualification comes at the heels of a canceled qualifier.
Philippine Judo Federation president Dave Carter said that if the postponed Olympic qualifications will no longer be held, Watanabe would eventually make it on account of her No. 21 world ranking. Only the top 18 are expected to make the Olympic cut but if the qualifiers are canceled, the magic circle will be expanded, thus making Watanabe a cinch to fly to Tokyo.
But he said the International Judo Federation (IJF) has announced that by April 30, it will decide whether to push through with two or more qualifications that were previously shelved.
And in those meets, Carter said Watanabe can easily snag outright qualification via direct qualification, and another Filipino, Keisei Nakano, can punch a ticket through the continental quota.
Carter said Keisei and brother Shugen were on the flight to Morocco from Japan via France when the IJF announced that the qualifying meet there was canceled due to virus scare.
Shugen won the -66kg gold in the SEA Games, while Keisei was -73kg bronze winner.
Carter said: “IJF will come up with the final list of qualified athletes by first week of June. For now nothing is official yet.”
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