Watanabe strong candidate for Tokyo

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    PHILIPPINE Judo Federation president Dave Carter is confident four-time Southeast Asian Games women’s judo champion Kiyomi Watanabe will make a return trip to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in July.

    The Filipino-Japanese judoka, who ruled the women’s -63kg division of the SEA Games for the fourth straight time last December, is a strong candidate to make it to her second Olympics based on her current ratings in the world Olympic rankings, according to Carter.

    Watanabe, who made her Olympic debut in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and won a silver medal in the 2018 Asian Games, is currently No. 35 in the -63kg division of the latest IJF ratings with 1,250 ranking points and is so far included in the Asian quota, based on the data posted on the IJF website.

    The top 18 judokas in each weight division during the Olympic qualifying cut-off date of May 25 will secure tickets to the quadrennial meet set July 29 to Aug. 9, with each country limited to one entry in the magic 18.

    Host Japan already has three judokas – Nabi Nabekura (No. 3), Miko Tasheru (No. 4) and Doi Masako (No. 5) – in the top 18, and has the discretion to pick who among them would make the grade during the cut-off date.

    The remaining eight entries in the weight classes in both men’s and women’s divisions will be selected from the quotas allotted to the continents by the International Judo Federation, said Carter, with Asia being allotted 10 slots spread over the various weight categories.

    In contrast, Mariya Takashashi, who also retained her -70kg crown in the 30th SEA Games, is way down in the rankings of her division at No. 134 and apparently is out of the running for an Olympic berth.

    Watanabe and Takashash will be joined by national teammates and siblings Shugen and Keisei Nagano in the three-day IJF Grand Slam tournament, an Olympic ranking event, starting in Dusseldorf, Germany tomorrow.

    To maintain or improve her rankings, Watanabe will also vie in three more Olympic rankings events in Ekaterinburg, Russia (March 13-15); Tblisi, Georgia (March 27-29); and Antalya, Turkey (April 3-5).