KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Badminton's world number one Kento Momota suffered a broken nose, fractured cheekbone and received stitches to his lips following a car crash on Monday (Jan 13) morning.
Malaysia Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said Momota and three others, who also suffered injuries following the accident that killed the driver of the van the group was travelling in, are currently being treated at the Putrajaya Hospital, reported The Star Online.
"According to the doctors, so far all four are recovering well and are in a stable condition," said Saddiq.
"We are monitoring all of them very closely. As the minister, we give our full commitment to ensure that they receive the best treatment."
"The doctors are well trained and have done a great job," said Syed Saddiq to reporters at the Putrajaya Hospital after visiting the crash victims.
Also seen visiting the victims were Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Norza Zakaria and Japan's coach Park Joo Bong.
The pre-dawn vehicle collision took place along the Maju Expressway early Monday morning, just hours after Momota secured his first victory of the season at the Malaysia Masters.
The Japanese shuttler and the three other passengers were en route to Kuala Lumpur International Airport when the hired van they were in rammed into the rear of a 30-tonne truck, the local fire and rescue department said in a brief statement. Pictures showed the front of the van crushed against a lorry but the back section appeared intact.
The driver of the van, named as N. Bavan, was killed in the accident. The fire and rescue department said it was still working to extricate the driver’s body from the wreckage.
Momota and the others – named as the Japanese player’s compatriots Yu Hirayama, Morimoto Arkifuki and Englishman William Thomas by official news agency Bernama – suffered slight injuries, the department said.
The Star said Hirayama, 35, and Morimoto, 42, are part of the Japanese coaching team while Thomas is a Badminton World Federation (BWF) court official.
The vehicle crashed into the back of a lorry, which was travelling slowly, Bernama reported.
“The victim’s body and all the injured” were sent to hospital in the administrative capital Putrajaya, fire and rescue department senior official Norazam Khamis was cited as saying.
The injured “were able to walk out of the van by themselves with some scratches”, he added.
The survivors were reportedly in a stable condition, according to a statement from Serdang police. This was confirmed by Malaysian Tan Kim Her, who is the men’s doubles coach for the Japanese national team.
“It’s truly tragic, especially involving a badminton icon like Momota,” Saddiq told reporters after visiting the injured in hospital.
The others hurt suffered facial, leg, hand and head injuries, according to the police.
The BAM said in a statement it was “saddened” by what happened.
The incident has cast a pall over Momota’s celebrations after he had captured the Malaysia Masters title with ease on Sunday, when he beat Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen 24-22, 21-11.
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 at his home Games - the only major individual title to elude him so far.
The reigning world champion had told reporters that he was eyeing more success in 2020 after Sunday’s victory.
Momota, currently the best player on the planet, enjoyed a stellar 2019, winning a record 11 titles including the World Championships, Asia Championships and All England Open.
“My condition was not perfect coming into this tournament, but I was focused on this week and was able to play calmly,” said the Japanese star, who pocketed US$30,000 (S$40,500).
“I do not think I am the strongest, but I am sharp and confident especially after winning the World Tour Finals last year. I know when to focus on attack and defence.”