Jakarta—In one fell swoop, Kiyomi Watanabe succumbed to her wily, world-class Japanese foe Nami Nabekura in the -63kgs finals of the judo competitions and settled for the Philippines’ first silver medal in the 2018 Asian Games at the Jakarta Convention Center here Thursday night.
Watanabe, the 22-year-old three-time Southeast Asian Games’ judo champion, proved no match to the many-time World Grand Prix titlist Nabekura, who took just three minutes and 21 seconds to pin the Fil-Japanese to the mat and secure Japan’s 27th gold in the games.
The 10-0 score summed up the Nabekura’s total domination of Watanabe, whose silver finish here, however, gave the Philippines its first-ever judo medal in Asian Games history.
“Coming here [in the finals], I was the challenger,” said Watanabe.
“We had a game plan, but I was so nervous before the game and could not execute. I know her because we often met in tournaments in Japan. But she is now much stronger than me because she often competes.”
Watanabe, who is on her second Asian Games having placed seventh during 2014 Incheon Asian Games, said she is happy with her first silver medal and to have contributed to the country’s campaign.
“I didn’t have a medal in my first Asian Games. I am so happy with this medal. I hope to continue playing for the Philippines,” Watanabe said.
Dave Carter, president of Philippine Judo Federation, said Watanabe had a chance against her rival.
“She had the edge in grappling and could have done it. But it did not go her way,” said Carter, who said
that Watanabe earned precious points from her silver finish here for qualification to the judo competition in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Watanabe’s feat hardly moved the Philippines at the medal table as the Philippines slid one notch to 17th spot with a gold-silver-bronze harvest of 4-1-13, still behind Southeast Asian Games rivals Thailand (11th, 9 golds), Vietnam (13th, 4 golds, 15 silvers) and Malaysia (15th, 4 golds, 11 silvers).
All four gold medals by the Philippines here were won by women athletes, counting Hidilyn Diaz’s victory in weightlifting, the double-gold sweep of women’s golf team led by Yuka Saso and the skateboarding triumph of Margielyn Arda Didal.
Watanabe, ranked No. 10 by the International Judo Federation, needed only one minute and 17 seconds to win by Ippon in a women’s -63 kgs quarterfinals against world No. 204 Orapin Senathan of Thailand to advance to the semifinals against Mongolia’s Bold Gankhaich.
It was actually a repeat win for the Fil-Japanese, who studies Sports Science at the Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan as she dominated the same Thai rival in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
In the semis, Watanabe was all business. She defeated Gankhaich scoring a Waza-ari in the 1:45 mark of their match, just 13 seconds after the Mongolian got called with a Shido en route to 1s1 score.
Meanwhile, triathletes Nikko Huelgas and Kim Mangrobang are aware that they will be going up against Asia’s big guns in the triathlon competitions Friday.
Reigning Southeast Asian Games’ women’s triathlon champion Mangrobang and vastly-improved Fil-Am Kim Kilgroe take first crack in the swim-bike-run event starting at 7:30 am (8:30 am in Manila) within and around the Jakabaring Sport City complex in Palembang.
“With her present form, a top 5 finish would not be farfetched for Kim, and if she steps up, I wouldn’t be surprised by a podium finish,” said coach Annie de Leon-Brown of the Europe-trained Mangrobang, who placed ninth in the last Asiad held in Incheon, South Korea four years ago.
While defending Japanese champion Ai Ueda is not around, compatriot Yuka Sato, ranked No. 20 in the International Triathlon world ratings, looms as the top favorite in the women’s division, Brown pointed out.
Huelgas, a two-time SEA Games goild medalist, and John Chicano, the 2017 Malaysian SEA Games medalist, will see action in the men’s competition on Saturday, and which Brown said would be even tougher considering there will be more entries.
“If either Nikko or John finish in the top 10 we would be happy,” Brown said.
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