After months of intensive training under the best coaches, and winning medals in tough international competitions, Cebu-born Fil-Japanese judoka Kiyomi Watanabe is all set to take the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Kuala Lumpur by storm.
The 21-year-old Watanabe is gunning for her third straight women’s judo gold medal in the biennial games which opens in less than a week.
Watanabe was with her supportive mother Irene who is a native of Toledo City, when they met the Cebu media yesterday, a day after the bemedalled judoka donated a mini library and study room to the Dampas Elementary School in Tagbilaran City.
“We target the gold medal, nothing else. Our preparation for the Sea Games started three months ago,” said Irene. “She told me before this interview that she won’t just try her best but rather do her best in the Sea Games and she is very confident of winning the gold medal.”
According to Philippine Judo Federation (PJF) chief David Carter, Watanabe is now the highest ranked judoka in Southeast Asia at 27th in the world.
She even ranked as high as 24th early this year. “We are very confident that she can win the gold medal in the Sea Games because nobody in southeast Asia is ranked that high,” said Carter.
With Carter, Irene and Kiyomi yesterday was Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) commissioner Ramon Fernandez. The PSC is Watanabe’s No. 1 supporter.
After the SEAG, Watanabe will fly to Budapest, Hungary to vie in the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Championships hoping to breach the No. 24 ranking to qualify for the 2020 Torkyo Olympics. She needs to compete in IJF world tours to improve her ranking.
Last February, Watanabe won a bronze medal in the Grand Slam Paris, the first medal won by a Filipino in that competition. She also clinched a silver medal in the 2017 European Women’s
Open in Austria in the same month and captured the gold medal in the Asian Judo Open Taipei Judo Championships in Hsinchu City last July. She competes in the 63-kilogram division.
“Wherever she wants to compete in the world, we will support her. She will be going to Budapest in Hungary right after the Sea Games to compete in the World Judo Championships. We will send her to all international competitions to help her win the gold medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” said Fernandez.
Kiyomi who was very shy during the press conference will turn 21 (August 25) on the eve of her Sea Games competition. She said that she is very proud being a member of the Philippine national team. She added that she will return to Japan to train there for two weeks before heading straight to Kuala Lumpur for the SEAG.
“I will do my best to win the gold medal. To all Filipino athletes competing in Sea Games, they must do their best as well. They must have discipline because that’s the key to win the gold medal,” said Kiyomi.