THE Philippine Judo Federation (PJF) considers Kiyomi Watanabe as a ‘sure gold’ in the coming Southeast Asian Games in Singapore while also setting its sights on the Fil-Japanese making it to the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
PJF president Dave Carter said Watanabe is a gold potential in the SEA Games despite just being 18 years old following her victory in the 15th Asian Junior Judo Championship this month in Hong Kong.
Watanabe’s gold was the first for the Philippines in the Asian judo tilt. She also won a gold in the Myanmar edition of the SEA Games last year.
“Kiyomi is a sure gold medalist in the 28th SEA Games and has now become a possible gold medalist in the next Asian Games,” Carter bared.
The judo official said Watanabe is still being wooed by the Japan junior national team and several colleges in Japan but has instead chose to represent the Philippines in international competition.
“She is proud to go around the venue with a Philippine flag on her uniform and be called Filipina,” said Carter.
After the win in the Asian competition, Carter is confident Watanabe, whose mother Irene traces her roots in Cebu, can qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. She must, however, compete in other events sanctioned by the International Judo Federation to gain more points in the rankings.
Watanabe is ranked 13th in the juniors but only 77th in the seniors. The top 14 judokas in each weight class automatically qualify to the Olympics.
“We ask the POC and the PSC to continue supporting athletes like Kiyomi, not only in the SEA Games and Asian Games but also in events handled by the IJF so she could earn points in the Olympic Games,” Carter said.
“Making it to the Olympics has become more stringent. Decades ago, a gold medalist in the SEA Games would automatically qualify for the Olympics. But now, athletes must also prove their worth in world ranking events,” added Carter.