Badminton: World No. 1 Kento Momota arrives back in Japan after harrowing trip

Japanese top-ranked shuttler Kento Momota, wearing a mask, arriving at Narita Airport after his flight from Malaysia.
Japanese top-ranked shuttler Kento Momota, wearing a mask, arriving at Narita Airport after his flight from Malaysia.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

KUALA LUMPUR • Badminton world No. 1 Kento Momota returned to Japan yesterday after he was discharged from a Malaysian hospital, two days after being treated for injuries suffered in a serious car crash.

The newly crowned Malaysia Masters champion faces two months out after suffering facial injuries and multiple bruises when the van carrying him and three others to Kuala Lumpur International Airport crashed in the early hours of Monday. The driver was killed.

"Momota has been discharged from hospital. He is heading back to Japan this morning," Norza Zakaria, president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia, said as the player boarded his flight.

The 25-year-old Japanese, wearing a dark cap and a face mask, left on a Malaysian Airlines flight at 9.40am bound for Tokyo's Narita airport.

Hours later, he arrived in Japan and walked past waiting journalists without making a statement.

An assistant coach, a physiotherapist and a badminton official also suffered minor injuries in the highway crash.

It occurred just hours after Momota began his season in style on Sunday with victory over Denmark's Viktor Axelsen in the final.

The injuries could upset Momota's preparations for this year's Tokyo Olympics where he will attempt to win gold on home soil to complete a full set of major titles.

He had been in a Putrajaya public hospital since Monday.

He will aim to return to action at the All England Championships from March 11, the secretary-general of Japan's Badminton Association Kinji Zeniya said on Tuesday.

He said Momota had "extraordinary enthusiasm towards the Olympics", adding: "I hope he will do his best without pushing and rushing himself too hard and without being impatient."

He refuted media reports that said the player had broken his nose and cheekbone, though the Japan Times reported yesterday that Momota had suffered "a slight nasal bone fracture", according to a doctor at the hospital.

Momota's record 11-title haul last year included the World Championship, Asia Championship and the All England titles, cementing a turnaround in fortunes for a player who was banned for gambling in 2016 and missed the Rio Olympics.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Momota home after harrowing trip'. Print Edition | Subscribe