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Watanabe awaits Tokyo Games OK

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Fil-Japanese judoka Kiyomi Watanabe is awaiting final confirmation from the IOC to book her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics as an Asian continental quota qualifier in the 63-kg half-middleweight division despite a second round loss to Brazil’s Alexia Castilhos at the recent World Championships in Budapest.

Watanabe, 24, is a virtual shoo-in and now listed among 25 qualified entries in her division with only two slots unaccounted for by unofficial sources.  The roster has not been finalized by the IOC or the International Judo Federation as the final announcement will be made on June 28.  There will be 15 gold medals at stake in judo, seven for men, seven for women and one for mixed team.  A total of 386 competitors, including 20 wildcards or Tripartite Commission Invitations, is expected.  The top 18 world-ranked judoka automatically qualify per event but a country is limited to only one entry in each division.  Aside from the top-ranked judoka, continental quota slots are allocated, including 10 for each gender in Asia.  The quotas are assigned by creating a list of athletes for each continent across all divisions and genders.

In Watanabe’s division, host Japan has an automatic ticket and the top 18 world-ranked judoka include only two from Asia – China’s Yang Junxia and Mongolia’s Gankhaich Bold.  Continental slots were assigned to Europe (Spain and Serbia), Africa (Cape Verde), Americas (Mexico and Ecuador), Asia (Watanabe), Oceania (to be determined) and one wildcard.

“Kiyomi still has a chance to qualify even if she didn’t win in her last tournament,” said POC official Martin Gregorio.  “She has a strong chance that she still qualifies through the continental quota or ranking but we will need to get the official announcement from the International Judo Federation.”  Once Watanabe is confirmed, she will be expected to check in at the Olympic Village on July 19.  The elimination round, quarterfinals, repechage, semifinals, bronze medal match and final in her division will be held on July 27.  Watanabe, a four-time SEA Games gold medalist, was born in Cebu and moved to Japan when she was eight.

Aside from Watanabe, awaiting confirmation for Tokyo are Filipino athletes Remedy Rule and Luke Gebbie of swimming, Kristina Knott of athletics and Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan of golf.  Rule and Gebbie, both brandishing Olympic Selection Time (OST) B credentials, are hoping to register Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT) A levels to claim automatic tickets but if not, they’ll make it via the universality route.  Knott will qualify by universality or automatic qualifying or world ranking in the women’s 100 and 200 meters.  The three golfers are within the top 60 world ranking cutoffs for men and women so they should qualify.  Assuming the confirmations, the Philippine delegation will be composed of 17 athletes.

Five more sports may qualify Filipino hopefuls in archery, karate, beach volleyball, triathlon (awaiting world ranking cutoff) and 5x5 basketball.  Karate will likely add to the qualifying cast with Fil-Japanese world No. 8 Junna Tsukii leading the charge.  So far, five of 10 competitors have been named in her 55-kg kumite division with three slots to be awarded to the top finishers of the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Paris this weekend, two for continental places and two for wildcards.  Also in contention are other karatedos Joane Orbon, Jaime Lim, Alwyn Batican, Ivan Agustin, Sharief Afif and kata’s Joco Vasquez.

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