SIBLINGS and Olympic hopefuls Shugen and Keisei Nakano try to boost their world Olympic qualifying rankings when they see action in the Grand Slam Hungary 2020 judo tournament opening today in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
“The Grand Slam tournament is one of the series of Olympic qualifying events for judo where our athletes can gain ranking points in their effort to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year,” Philippine Judo Federation president Dave Carter said.
Shugen, who bagged a gold medal in the 30th Southeast Games last December, and SEA Games bronze medalist Keisei will see action in the men’s 66-kilogram and 73-kilogram divisions, respectively.
Keisei is ranked No. 78 in his weight class while Shugen is No. 106 in the his category. The top 18 judokas in each category at the Olympic cut-off of June 28, 2021 set by the International Judo Federation will earn tickets to the rescheduled Tokyo Games.
“Between them, I believe that Shugen has a better chance of qualifying for Tokyo, although he presently has a lower ranking than his brother,” Carter said, “through the Asian continental quota set by the IJF.”
He said this could be possible if Fil-Japanese judoka and four-time SEA Games women’s judo gold medalist Kiyomi Watanabe qualifies outright in the women’s 63-kilogram division.
Considered the country’s brightest medal hope in the ethnic Japanese combat sport, Watanabe is currently No. 36 in the IJF world rankings and could rise further once she resumes competitions early next year, according to Carter.
“Should Kiyomi rise further in the world rankings once she starts competing again next year and qualifies outright for Tokyo, ” Carter said, “then there is a strong possibility that a spot in the Asian or continental quota could open up for either of the Nakano brothers.”
Carter recalled this was how the Nakanos’ older brother, Kodo, became a last-minute qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“We weren’t expecting a qualifier at that time but the IJF told me just before Rio ‘Dave, we have one spot for the Philippines, do you want it,’ and of course we did,” he said.
The oldest Nakano sibling fell in the first round of the men’s -81-kg division in Rio.
Unlike their Manila-based counterparts, all three judokas have been training regularly since January in the Japanese capital of Tokyo, according to Carter.
He said that Watanabe did not join the Nakano bothers because her personal Japanese coach Yazaki Yuta advised her to stay home over health and safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yuta was at ringside when Watanabe won the silver medal in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, according to the judo chief.
“Kiyomi was supposed to compete in the Tokyo Grand Slam in December but this was scrapped by the IJF so she will just start competing early next year,” Carter said.