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Sports

Saso forever proud of dual heritage

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Saso forever proud of dual heritage
Yuka Saso
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Golf superstar Yuka Saso stressed she will always be a “proud Filipino” even if she is set to become a full Japanese national.

Saso, the reigning US Women’s Open champion, asked for understanding from her Philippine supporters as she began the process of acquiring Japanese citizenship in compliance with Japan’s nationality laws.

“I am a Filipina, born in the Philippines to a Japanese father and Filipino mother. I was raised in both Japan and the Philippines, I am immensely proud of my dual heritage and that will never change,” she said in a statement yesterday.

Saso, 20, is required to choose between Japanese and Philippine citizenship prior to turning 22. She said she arrived at her decision “after much thought and consultation with my family, friends and advisors.”

“Thank you for respecting my choice. I am grateful to both my Filipino and Japanese supporters. I would not have achieved anything in my career without your support,” she said.

“I look forward to making you proud as I continue with my professional golfing career.”

Yesterday, Saso went about business at the fairways and greens as she fired an opening one-under 71 in the Toto Japan Classic in Shiga Prefecture.

The Asian Games double gold medalist mixed four birdies with three bogeys at the Seta Golf Course’s North layout as she stood six shots off Sakura Koiwai’s sizzling 65.

Saso was actually at three-under after 10 holes but stumbled with a pair of bogeys on the 14th and 16th to settle for a 71, good for joint 24th.

Koiwai, who offset a bogey on No. 2 with eight birdies in the next 16 holes, seized a two-shot lead against Sumika Nakasone (67) and Ayaka Watanabe (67).

Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino expressed gratitude to the Filipino-Japanese ace who, he said, has “represented the country in major global competitions “with a major flourish.”

“She remains a Filipino by heart,” Tolentino said of the Tokyo Olympics ninth placer and 2018 Asian Games double gold medalist. “She was born here in the Philippines so by heart, she represents both (the Philippines and Japan).”

The POC chief said Saso’s decision, though not beneficial to Philippine sports in general, will help her “develop more as a person and athlete.” He also noted the perks of carrying a Japanese passport for every international tournament plus health care and social benefits as well as big sponsorships from Japan.”

YUKA SASO
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