By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Yuka Saso thanked her supporters for respecting her decision by opting to become Japanese nationality after reports surfaced in several Japanese media outlets Wednesday.
In a statement released to the Philippine media Thursday, the Fil-Japanese Olympian golfer expressed her gratitude to those who helped nurture her became a global star.
“I am grateful to both my Filipino and Japanese supporters,” the statement read.
“I would not have achieved anything in my career without your support. I look forward to making you proud as I continue with my professional golfing career.”
Saso, who is 6 strokes behind leader Sakura Koiwai in the opening round of the 4th Toto Japan Classic Thursday at the Seta Golf Course in Shiga Prefecture, confirmed that she has chosen to become a Japanese citizen under Japanese law, which states people who hold dual citizenship must choose a single citizenship by age 22.
The Tokyo Olympian and reigning US Women’s Open Champion will turn 22 on June 20, 2023.
“After much thought and consultation with my family, friends and advisors, I have begun the process of acquiring Japanese citizenship,” the statement read.
Meantime, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Butch Ramirez supported Saso’s decision.
While the country has lost a gem, Tolentino believes Saso “remains a Filipino by heart” and thanked the reigning US Women’s Open champion for donning the Philippine flag in major global competitions.
“I would like to thank her personally for representing our country for the past years,” Tolentino said.
“Her personal business decision will help her develop more as a person and athlete.”
As a Japanese citizen, Saso will not have trouble obtaining visas when she travels and competes abroad. Japan also boasts of health and social benefits and numerous sponsorships in the sport.
Ramirez also echoed Tolentino’s sentiments and admitted they have discussed this issue during the Tokyo Olympics last August.
“That is her right to make that decision. I fully understand,” Ramirez said.
“There are big international golf competitions in Japan, a rich country. It would have been different if we have those.”
Despite these developments, Saso said she remains “immensely proud of my dual heritage.”
“That will never change,” she said.
International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) owned by Ricky Razon, which has been continuously supporting golf in the country, showed its support for Saso’s decision in a statement also released Thursday.
“ICTSI respects Yuka’s choice of citizenship. Our support for her goes beyond her citizenship preference because of her outstanding talent and achievements,” the statement read.
“Yuka has truly evolved to become a global icon, and we are proud to be part of her journey. Her unparalleled dedication and determination are in line with ICTSI’s commitment to excel and break barriers.”
ICTSI understood Saso’s decision as becoming a Japanese citizen proves more convenient for her current status as a global star in the sport.
Born in Ildefonso, Bulacan to a Japanese father and a Filipina mother, Saso began her career representing the Philippines in several international tournaments including the US Women’s Open in June and the Tokyo Olympics last August.