THE country will be without Tokyo Olympian karateka Kiyomi Watanabe in the Hanoi Southeast Asian (SEA) Games slated for May 12 to 23.

Philippine Judo Federation secretary-general Dave Carter bared the bad news on Tuesday as the 25-year-old’s absence would mean one less gold medal for the country since the Fil-Jap is a favorite after she delivered one of the three mints the Filipinos won in the last SEA Games two years ago.

Mr. Carter, however, said Ms. Watanabe has recovered fully from the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury she sustained from years of practice and competition and is back to training by doing drills, running and form practice.

There is optimism though that Watanabe would make it to the Hangzhou Asian Games set on Sept. 10 to 25 where she is one of the favorites to strike gold.

Ms. Watanabe fought for the gold in the 2018 Jakarta Asiad in the women’s 63-kilogram finals but lost to Japanese Nami Nabekura. — Joey Villar