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Watanabe stamps class

by Jonas Terrado

Fil-Japanese Kiyomi Watanabe geared up her bid to win a third straight Southeast Asian Games gold medal after topping the 63-kg division of the Asian Judo Open held over the weekend in Taipei.

Kiyomi Watanabe

Kiyomi Watanabe

The 20-year-old judoka defeated Japan’s Chika Kudo in the final to complete an impressive showing that saw her win three matches in the Taiwanese capital.

Watanabe drew a bye in Pool A before advancing to the semifinals with a victory over Japanese Haruna Oto.

She beat 18-year-old Yu Ching Cheng of the host nation in the semis before upstaging the 23-year-old Kudo in the final.

The victory should enhance Watanabe’s confidence heading to next month’s SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

She made her debut in the 2013 Games in Naypyidaw, outlasting Thi Hoa Bui of Vietnam for her first gold.

Two years later in Singapore, Watanabe downed Thailand’s Orapin Senatham to secure another gold.

Earlier this year, Watanabe took the bronze medal in the Grand Slam Paris event before settling for silver in the European Women’s Open tournament in Austria, losing to hometown bet Kathrin Unterwurzacher in the final.