A close shave at judo gold
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Filipinos’ medal rush has yet to subside even as the 18th Asian Games are percolating to an end.
Kiyomi Watanabe sustained the Philippines’ momentum as she delivered a silver medal in the judo competition on Thursday at the Jakarta Convention Center here.
The 22-year-old Filipino-Japanese had a sensational performance in the earlier matches before running into Nami Nabekura of Japan, surrendering via ippon in the women’s -63kg class.
Watanabe, whose mother hails from Cebu, said she came into the match as the challenger since Nebukura is considered as a rising star in Japan following impressive wins in the Asian Championships, Grand Prix and World Juniors Championships.
“She’s a strong player in this competition. I wanted to play my best, but in the (gold-medal) match, I was so nervous and I couldn’t do my best. It’s something I regret,” said the Nihongo-speaking Watanabe through a translator.
“We already practiced together in Japan. I had a plan (against her), but I couldn’t make it because she’s so good.”
Still, it was a good run for Watanabe, a Sports Science student at Waseda University in Tokyo.
She opened her bid with an emphatic win via ippon over Orapin Senatham of Thailand in the quarterfinals before demolishing Gankhaich Bold of Mongolia in the via shido and waza-ari in the semifinals.
But Nabekura was simply too strong to overcome.
“Nabekura is also a Japanese. She’s very familiar with the playing style of Kiyomi,” said Philippine Judo Federation president Dave Carter, adding that this is their first gold medal since the sport was introduced in the Seoul edition in 1986.
“Kiyomi was quite nervous entering into the match because she knows that Nabekura is one of Japan’s best players. But reaching this far is already an achievement. We’re glad that she made it to the finals.”
Not as fortunate as Watanabe were Megumi Kurayoshi, Mariya Takahashi and Keisi Nakano.
Kurayoshi bowed to Po Sum Leung via ippon in the Round of 16 of the women’s -57kg while Takahashi fell to Kim Seongyeon of Korea also via ippon in the quarterfinals of the women’s -70kg class.
Nakano also followed his twin brother, Shugen, at the exit after surrendering to Mohammad Barim Mohammad of Iran via ippon in the Round of 16 of the men’s -73kg.
Watanabe’s production is another impressive addition to the medal harvest of Team Philippines, which is on its way to its best finish since the Doha Asiad in 2006 where it garnered four gold, six silver and nine bronze medals.
Right now, the Filipinos already have four gold, one silver and 13 bronze medals, good for 17th spot in the 45-nation medal tally.
China is also on its way to an overall crown with 108 gold medals, a little less than half of the production of second-running Japan with 58 gold medals.
Over at the sprawling GBK Athletics Stadium late Wednesday, heavy favorites EJ Obiena, Kristina Knott and the 4×100-meter relay team of Eric Cray, Anfernee Lopena, Trenten Beram and Clinton Bautista as well as Mark Harry Diones all fell by the wayside.
Obiena, who trained under the watchful eyes of Ukrainian great Vitaly Petrov, registered only 5.30 meters to settle for a sixth-place finish.
Two-time Olympian Seito Yamamoto of Japan took the gold medal with 5.70 meters while Yao Jie of China and Obiena’s Southeast Asian Games rival in Patsapong Amsam Ang of Thailand grabbed the silver and bronze medals with a similar record of 5.50 meters.
Knott was also empty-handed after bowing in the women’s 200-meter run.
The Filipino-American University of Miami standout clocked only 23.51 seconds, which is way inferior than the timing of podium finishers Edidong Odiong of Bahrain (22.96 seconds); Dutee Chand of India (23.20 seconds); and Wei Yongli of China (23.27 seconds).
Good but not enough
Knott, however, said she’s very much satisfied with her performance.
“This is my first time in the Asian Games. I’m not too upset about my performance,” said Knott, who had a similar clocking with a Chinese runner, but still emerged sixth upon review of the photo-finish machine.
“These are the fastest times I ran the whole year.”
Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico said Knott would be a marked woman in the SEA Games next year.
“This is a vindication for her. In the SEA Games, this performance is good for a gold medal,” said Juico, noting that Knott came out with the best time among Southeast Asian runners.
The men’s relay team was also a letdown.
The squad clocked only 39.59 seconds to end at ninth spot in the 14-team field in the preliminaries.
Diones, on the other hand, registered 15.72 meters to finish 12th in the 15-man field in the men’s triple jump event with Arpinder Singh of India (16.77 meters); Ruslan Kurbanov of Uzbekistan (16.62 meters); and Shuo Cao of China (16.56 meters) emerging at the podium.
In kurash, former wrestler Jason Balabal bombed out of contention after succumbing to Guvanch Begaliyev of Turkmenistan, 0-10, in the Round of 16 of men’s -90kg also at the Jakarta Convention Center.
Meanwhile, the highly popular women’s volleyball team suffered a straight-set beating from Olympic champion China, 15-25, 9-25, 7-25, to fall to the classification for fifth to eighth places.
Jaja Santiago served as the lone bright spot with 16 points for the Filipinos, who will face Kazakhstan on Friday for a chance to salve a fifth-place finish in this prestigious quadrennial sports conclave.
Also looking to salvage a fifth-place finish is the Philippine men’s basketball team, which will battle Syria in the classification phase at the 7,000-seater GBK Istora.
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