After a gruelling six weeks of travel around the globe competing, Whanganui heavyweight judoka Keightley Watson has finished the Asian leg of competition on a high note.
He has also put himself in the frame for Olympic selection.
The teenager won bronze in the Senior Men's Asian Open in Taipei over the weekend. It was a complete reversal of fortune for the Whanganui High School student after a seventh the previous week in the Asia-Oceania Junior men's plus 100kg division also in Taipei.
With 17 countries competing this year in the Asian Open, mostly from the Asian continent including four New Zealand senior judokas in various weight category's and eight from Australia, Watson was the only Kiwi to medal while only one from Australia also managed a medal from their team.
"This would be one of the best results for a very long time for a major international senior competition from a New Zealand judoka and more special that he is still only in his first year of junior men's [18-20]," father Ross Watson said.
"For some reason Keightley always seems to produce better results when fighting up in age brackets, he just seems to get more of a focus on the job at hand for one reason or another.
"The fact he was able to really acclimatize having a full week in Taipei prior to competition as opposed to flying in two days before and flying out the following day after a competition would have also helped."
It will now be back to school at WHS later this week and back into City Gym for fitness and strength training as he been doing for the past several years under the guidance of Pat McNamara to prepare him for a two week training camp in Japan in late September with the New Zealand Senior team. He then moves on to his next major international tournament, the Oceania Judo Union Open in Perth at the beginning of November.
This year it will be effectively a Grand Slam tier 1 competition with 2020 Olympic rankings points also up for grabs and with 12 countries already confirmed this far out means another difficult proposition for the young judoka.
Currently Watson is one of three New Zealand judokas in the frame for the Tokyo Olympics, although it is looking likely that only one will get selected.
"If he can pull out another big tournament in Perth and podium, or better still win gold at Perth, this will help his cause," Ross Watson said.
"He would still have the first part of next year to also gather Olympic ranking points at an international level in the seniors, but we will look at these options after the Perth OJU and just see where he is sitting points-wise."