JAKARTA, Indonesia – Philippine bet Kiyomi Watanabe came close to dominating the Asian level.
Watanabe settled for a silver medal after bowing to the favored Nami Nabekura of Japan via ippon in the judo women’s -63kg event of the 2018 Asian Games at the JCC Plenary Hall on Thursday, August 30.
“This competition I knew I was going up against a lot of strong players so before my last match, I was really nervous and so I couldn’t do my best,” said Watanabe in Japanese.
The three-time Southeast Asian Games champion could have continued the golden run of Filipino female athletes as weightlifting's Hidilyn Diaz, golf's Yuka Saso, the women's golf team of Bianca Pagdanganan, Lois Kaye Go and Saso, and skateboarding's Margielyn Didal all delivered gold medals for the Philippines.
Watanabe, though, headed into the finals as an underdog against Nabekura, who boasts an impressive resume as a four-time Grand Prix champion, a 2017 Asian champion and also a 2015 world junior title holder.
But the Filipino-Japanese challenger actually had a chance to pull off an upset after a strong buildup to the Asian Games.
“I have been practicing with her in Japan and I had a plan but I couldn’t execute it,” the Philippines’ lone silver medalist said.
Watanabe, ranked No. 19 by the International Judo Federation, advanced to the title round after downing Mongolia’s Gankhaich Bold in the semifinal.
The Cebu-born judoka also defeated Thailand's Orapin Senathan – whom she beat for the gold in 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games – in the quarterfinal round.
Watanabe is the lone medalist from the national judo team as Mariya Takahashi got knocked out in the repechage stage.
But the 22-year-old's silver glittered like gold for Philippine judo as it's the first Asiad medal the country has won since the sport was introduced in 1986. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.