New No. 1 Momota wants to emulate Lin, Lee

TOKYO • World champion Kento Momota has said that he wants to emulate the successful careers of Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, after he became the first Japanese man to top the Badminton World Federation rankings on Thursday.

He replaces Dane Viktor Axelsen at the summit, as the Rio Olympics bronze medallist and last year's world champion slipped to third, behind China's Shi Yuqi.

"Being the world No. 1 is an unforgettable experience. I'm very grateful to those who are supporting me, and have stood by my side all this while," Momota, 24, said.

"To become the best in the world is just a first step. My idols like Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei have had storied careers, and I hope to be like them, staying at the top for a long period of time."

Lee is in Taiwan receiving treatment for early stage nose cancer. The Malaysian dropped one place to fifth, while Chinese great Lin, 34, remains at 12th.

Momota was suspended in April 2016 for visiting an illegal casino and missed the Olympics that year before returning to the tour at the Canadian Open in July last year.

The explosive Japanese won back-to-back tournaments in March and April this year before losing to the 35-year-old Lee in the Malaysia Open final.

He beat Axelsen in the final of the Indonesia Open in July before becoming world champion the following month in Nanjing by defeating Shi in the final.

Momota also won his home Japan Open earlier this month but finished a surprise runner-up behind Anthony Sinisuka Ginting at last week's China Open, a second loss to the Indonesian in a few weeks after his reverse at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

In the women's singles, fellow Japanese Akane Yamaguchi regained the world No. 1 ranking, which she clinched in April and became the first Japanese player to do so.

Japan also dominated the women's doubles as Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota retained top spot.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2018, with the headline 'New No. 1 Momota wants to emulate Lin, Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe