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PJF expects judoka Watanabe to be in the mix for Olympic medal

LONE Philippine Olympic judo representative Kiyomi Watanabe will figure prominently in her event in the rescheduled quadrennial sporting meet.

This was shared by Philippine Judo Federation (PJF) President Dave Carter during his session at the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday.

The PJF official said they are high on the Filipino-Japanese judoka’s chances for a podium finish, even for a gold medal provided breaks go her way, owing to her go-getting mind-set, apart from Ms. Watanabe’s top-level skills.

“Anything is possible with her (Watanabe). We cannot underestimate her abilities as an athlete. She’s a true warrior, who has the power and the heart to compete,” said Mr. Carter.

Ms. Watanabe, 24, clinched a berth in the Tokyo Games via continental quota as certified by the International Judo Federation, becoming the first Filipina judoka to make the Olympics, and the third straight Philippine bet in judo to see action in the quadrennial meet after Tomohiko Hoshina and Kodo Nakano in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games, respectively.

She is currently the 39th ranked player in the world and won silver in the 2018 Asian Games and a four-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist.

Mr. Carter said Ms. Watanabe is currently deep in training in Japan where she is based.

While the PJF expects the Philippine bet to put up a solid showing, it admitted Ms. Watanabe will go through a tough challenge.

It said that based on its calculations, Ms. Watanabe needs to win at least five to six matches to make it to the gold medal round. But three wins in the pool play would assure her of making it to the quarterfinals.

“If she reaches the quarterfinals, she has a strong chance,” said Mr. Carter.

In the Olympics, Ms. Watanabe is up against top athletes from Europe, Brazil, France, Slovenia, and Germany, among others.

Judo in the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to start on July 24, with Ms. Watanabe kicking off her campaign on July 27.

The Tokyo Olympics happens from July 23 to Aug. 8.

Apart from Ms. Watanabe, other Filipino Tokyo Olympic-bound athletes are pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Caloy Yulo, boxers Eumir Felix Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, weightlifters Hidilyn Diaz and Erleen Ann Ando, rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, shooter Jayson Valdez, trackster Kristina Knott and golfers Juvic Pagunsan, Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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