Former badminton ace Momota bows out of international competition

Tokyo, 3 May, /AJMEDIA/

Two-time world champion Kento Momota bowed out of international badminton on Thursday without hitting a shuttlecock, after his Japan side lost to Malaysia in the Thomas and Uber Cup quarterfinals in China’s Chengdu.

Momota, aged 29, was once badminton’s undisputed king, winning 11 titles in 2019 and losing just six of the 73 matches he played that year.

But in January 2020 the vehicle taking him to Kuala Lumpur airport crashed hours after he won the Malaysia Masters, and he has admitted he has never been the same since.

The driver was killed and Momota needed surgery to repair a fractured eye socket.

When he returned after a year out Momota suffered double vision and failed to regain the scintillating form that had taken him to world number one, although he did win two more titles.

Now ranked 52 and having missed out on a place at the Paris Olympics, he said last month he would retire from Japan’s national team after playing at the Thomas and Uber Cup.

Momota’s Japanese men’s team lost 3-1 to Malaysia in Chengdu on Thursday in a tense best-of-five tie.

That meant the former superstar — scheduled to play in the fifth and final match — did not even set foot on court.

In the first match of the tie, Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia comfortably defeated Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto 21-13, 21-3, before doubles pair Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi beat Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik 18-21, 21-14, 21-19 to level the contest.

Leong Jun Hao saw off Koki Watanabe 21-13, 21-10 to put Malaysia in front, leaving doubles pair Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin to clinch their match and the tie by downing Japanese duo Akira Koga and Taichi Saito, triggering wild on-court celebrations.

It was a low-key exit to international competition for Momota.

Following his team’s defeat in Chengdu, he will now play only in domestic competitions in Japan and not on badminton’s World Tour.

Momota had targeted this summer’s Paris Olympics but his national ranking was not good enough to earn him a spot in Japan’s team.

He was banned from selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics for gambling at an illegal casino.

He lost in the opening round of the Tokyo Games in 2021 in a huge shock which he described as “nothing but a frustrating memory”.

“I don’t think I was fully prepared for it but I had dreamed of playing at the Olympics for a long time so in that sense it was a good experience,” he said last month.

© 2024 AFP

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