Although not formally in the Olympics yet, the 24-year-old Filipino-Japanese from Cebu City is the country’s brightest hope to make it to the coronavirus-interrupted competition in Tokyo next year.
Philippine Judo Federation president David Carter certainly thinks so.
“I honestly think she’ll make it to the Tokyo Olympics. Based on her recent performances and world rankings, Kiyomi will be our next Olympian,” said Carter during the weekly “Usapang Sports On Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom last Thursday.
Carter’s confidence is built around Watanabe’s present world No. 23 ranking, which makes her an automatic qualifier in her weight class, and her rigid training in Japan right now despite the pandemic.
“Ayoko pa sana sabihin dahil hindi pa naman official, but Kiyomi should be in the Tokyo Olympics next year,” added Carter during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“Although the formal announcement will be made by the IJF (International Judo Federation) on the first week of June, Kiyomi is continental qualified. Kung puputulin na yun qualfiying events ngayon, pasok siya sa Olympics.
Carter, who was voted to the executive board in the recent Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) elections, said the Nakano brothers — Shugen and Keisei — are two other bright prospects for the Olympics.
“Kapag nagkataon, baka maka-dalawa tayong Olympic representatives based on continental rankings,” said Carter, referring to Watanabe and the Nakano brothers.
He said Watanabe and the Nakano brothers, who are based in Japan, continue to train regularly.
“In fact, we are delighted to inform everybody na yun mga Olympic hopefuls natin hindi sila napapabilang sa mga na-regulate dahil they are based abroad, like Hidilyn (Diaz), EJ (Obiena) and Caloy (Yulo). Walang hindrance yun training nila dun,” explained Carter.
Carter also claimed there are many other talented judokas based in the country who can still try to make it to Tokyo.
“Yun ibang mga national athletes na nandito, baka maka-habol pa kapag maluwag na sa IATF.”
Watanabe was born in Cebu City to Filipino mother from Mandaue City and a Japanese father. Watanabe grew up in Cebu City and studied at St. Paul Learning Center before migrating to Japan with the family when she was eight years.
She represented the country for the first time in the 2011 SEA Games in Jakarta where she bagged the bronze in the women’s 70-kg.
From there, Watanabe captured the gold in the next four editions of the SEA Games while competing in the 70 -kg class — 2013 Napyidaw, 2015 Singapore, 2017 Kuala Lumpiur and 2019 Manila.
“Yun Nanay ni Kiyomi, Cebuana kaya mas madalas siya mag-Bisaya kesa tagalog,” added Carter.
Last year, the Philippines captured three golds, one silver and nine bronzes to finish third overall in the SEA Games judo competitions held at the Laus Event Center in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Winning the gold medals were Shugen Nakano (men’s 66 kg), Watanabe (women’s63 kg) and Mariya Takahashi (women’s 70kg).
The lone silver medal was provided by Gilbert Ramirez (men’s 81 kg).
Bronze medalists were Keisei Nakano (men’s 73 kg), Carl Dave Aseneta (men’s 90 kg), John Ferrer (men’s 100 kg), Shin Matsumura (men’s +100 kg), Krizzlie Pabulayan (women’s 52 kg), Rena Furukawa (women’s 57 kg), Ryoko Salinas (women’s +78 kg), and the men’s and women’s teams.
PCAP to launch search for ‘Pinay Beth Harmon’
THE country’s leading female chess players, led by reigning national women’s champion Jan Jodilyn Fronda, hope to “follow the footsteps of Beth Harmon” when they join the coming Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) Draft on Dec. 20.
Harmon is the lead character in the blockbuster Netflix movie “Queen’s Gambit”, a seven-part series which follows the rise of a female chess prodigy who excelled in the male-dominated game.
Fronda and fellow national team members Shania Mae Mendoza, Marie Antoinette San Diego, Bernadette Galas and Catherine Perena-Secopito lead a wave of outstanding female players hoping to make an impact in the country’s first-ever professional chess league starting next month.
In all, a total of 30 female players have applied for the PCAP Draft to be participated in by all 24 member-teams.
PCAP president-commissioner Atty. Paul Elauria said teams are required to field at least one female player in their line-up as part of the league’s gender equality policy.
Any team, however, can field more than one female player.
“I think it’s a brilliant move by the PCAP. This will give more female players like me the opportunity to show what we can do,” said Fronda during the Dec. 3 edition of the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS).
Fronda, who captured the national women’s chess championship last year, said having a professional league like PCAP will open the door for more female chess players.
“The PCAP will be another good venue for female players, who want to continue to play after completing college and serving the national team,”she added.
The other notable players who are now eligible to be drafted by PCAP teams are Judith Pineda, Mary Ann Mejia, Rowelyn Joy Acedo, Mira Mirano, Carmelita Abanes, Fiona Guirhem, Michella Concio, Enrica Villa, Genlaiza Bagorio, Rida Jane Young, Ezraline Alvarez, Virgenie Ruaya, Jessa Mae Lisondra, Kisha Marie Flores, Cindy Martinez, Susan Grace Neri, Faith Mangubat, Angel Jean Salem, Joan Vender, Sheryll Bordoc, Sarah Mae Chua, Yanika Seratubias, Krizza Mae Biggayan and Rayelyn Posadas.
Aside from one female player, PCAP teams are also required to field two titled players, one senior player and homegrown players.
The draft is also open to players with disabilities, according to Atty. Elauria.
Antipolo City holds the distinction of getting the No. 1 pick overall in the talent-laden draft, which attracted eight grandmasters and 11 international masters.
Iloilo will pick second, while Quezon City will choose third.
Also joining the draft are Iriga, fourth; Negros, fifth; Cordova, sixth; Rizal, seventh; San Juan, eighth; Mindoro, ninth; Lapu Lapu, 10th; Surigao, 11th; Manila, 12th; Camarines, 13th; Olongapo, 14th; Cabuyao,15th; Toledo, 16th; Cagayan, 17th; Zamboanga, 18th; General Trias, 19th; Isabela, 20th; Cebu, 21st; Caloocan, 22nd; Pasig, 23rd; and Palawan, 24th.