Unbreakable will Watanabe’s key to gold; Saso, Pagdanganan book Tokyo tickets
Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe dislocated her left elbow in a tournament in Germany early last year. But in less than three weeks, the Filipino-Japanese was up and about, doing pushups, pull ups and lifting weights as though the injury never happened.
“That’s how strong Kiyomi’s fighting spirit is. Good thing it was not a fracture,’’ said Philippine Judo Federation president Dave Carter during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday.
It will practically be the same strength of character that Watanabe, who was born in Cebu City and now based in Japan, will bring to the mat in the coming Tokyo Olympics.
“She has a big heart. Kiyomi winning a medal for us is possible. She might surprise us during the Games,’’ said Carter in the weekly forum sponsored by Smart/PLDT, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Go For Gold, Milo, Braska, Amelie Hotel and San Miguel Corp.
Meanwhile, golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan officially qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, pushing the Philippine delegation to 17 athletes.
The two secured slots in the Games after placing inside the top 60 of the Olympic Golf Ranking. Saso is at No. 9 after winning the US Women’s Open title earlier this month while Pagdanganan, who has also turned heads in her rookie year in the Ladies Professional Golf Association, is at No. 42.
The Philippines now has three golfers competing in Tokyo with Pagdanganan and Saso joining Juvic Pagunsan.
Watanabe, a 23-year-old Asian Games silver medalist in the women’s 63 kilogram division and reigning four-time Southeast Asian Games champion qualified through a continental quota awarded by the International Judo Federation, becoming the first female Filipino judoka in the Olympics.
Watanabe has to reach the quarterfinals for a shot at a medal. To win the gold, she must win five to six matches.
Standing on Watanabe’s path to grab the country’s first Olympic gold are world titleholder Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, Slovenia’s Tina Trstenjak, Martyna Trajdos of Germany, Japan’s Tashiro Miku and 2018 Asian Games champion Nami Nabekura also from the host nation.
—With reports from Mark Giongco INQ
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