KUALA LUMPUR • Badminton's world No. 1 Kento Momota suffered a broken nose and fractured cheekbone and received stitches to his lips following a road accident yesterday morning.
Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said the Japanese and three others - two of whom were from his coaching team - were injured following the accident that killed the driver of the van the group was travelling in.
Assistant coach Yu Hirayama, 35, had facial injuries and injured her right leg, while 42-year-old physiotherapist Morimoto Akifumi suffered a broken hand.
Badminton World Federation technical officer William Thomas, 30, also suffered leg injuries and received seven stitches to his head, but the driver, named as 24-year-old Bavan Nageswarau, died at the scene.
The quartet are currently being treated at the Putrajaya Hospital.
"According to the doctors, so far all four are recovering well and are in a stable condition," said Mr Saddiq. "We are monitoring all of them very closely... We give our full commitment to ensure that they receive the best treatment. The doctors are well trained and have done a great job."
Mr Saddiq called the accident "truly tragic as it involves a badminton icon like Momota", while the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) said it was saddened to hear what happened.
Also seen visiting the victims were BAM president Norza Zakaria, Japan's badminton coach Park Joo-bong and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, wife of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The pre-dawn vehicle collision took place along the Maju Expressway, coming just hours after Momota, 25, secured his maiden Malaysia Masters title and first victory of the season by defeating Denmark's Viktor Axelsen in the final.
He was en route to Kuala Lumpur International Airport when his hired van rammed into the rear of a 30-tonne truck, which was reportedly travelling slowly.
Pictures posted online showed the front of the vehicle had crumpled upon impact, although the back section appeared intact.
The incident has cast a pall over Momota's achievements and it remains to be seen if the accident will affect his preparations for the upcoming Olympics, where he is bidding to win a first gold medal at his home Games - the only major individual title to elude him so far.
He has already been forced to pull out of the Indonesia Masters, which starts today, and according to BAM secretary-general Kenny Goh, he is hoping to return to Japan as soon as possible.
Mr Goh told the New Straits Times: "They have undergone treatment and are currently resting. The doctors are observing them. I think the Japanese team just want to know if they are fit to travel."
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) sent an official to the hospital to provide assistance, and its secretary-general Thomas Lund thanked all those who rendered assistance to Momota and company.
"Thankfully, Kento, two members of the Japanese support staff and a Hawkeye system operator are in a safe and stable condition," he said.
"Their welfare is our No. 1 concern, and I can ensure all is being done to support them at this time.
"The BWF would like to thank the BAM and all local emergency services for their swift action."
Reigning world champion Momota had told reporters that he was eyeing more success after opening his winning account for the season.
He won a record 11 titles last year, including the Asia Championships and All England Open, and had said he was feeling "sharp and confident".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK