December 4, 2021

Badminton’s No. 1 Kento Momota tests positive for COVID-19, prompts Japan team’s withdrawal at the Thailand Open

2 min read

FILE PHOTO: 2019 Badminton World Championships - St. Jakobshalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland - August 25, 2019 Japan's Kento Momota in action during his men's singles final against Denmark's Anders Antonsen REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

Men’s world No. 1 badminton player Kento Momota has tested positive for COVID-19, but has exhibited no symptoms, the Nippon Badminton Association announced. The Japanese shuttler is now set to miss the Thailand Open along with the entire Japanese national team as they were assembled at Tokyo’s National Training Center ahead of two weeks of tournaments in Thailand starting from Jan. 12.

“Momota has tested positive for the coronavirus, and the association has decided not to send any players, including Momota, to Thailand,” a Nippon Badminton Association official said. The 26-year-old  set to make his international comeback almost a year following a tragic car accident last year that left him with serious face injuries and killed his driver.

The two-time reigning world champion tested positive from the virus before flying to Bangkok at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport with the Japanese team. Momota made no immediate comment about the diagnosis. An association official confirmed that none of the other 22 Japan players tested positive, but said the entire team would withdraw nonetheless.

“Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) has subsequently withdrawn all its singles and doubles players from the YONEX Thailand Open (12-17 January 2021) and TOYOTA Thailand Open (19-24 January 2021),” the BWF confirmed in a statement.  The rescheduled Thailand Open is one of three tournaments taking place in Thailand this month, following disruptions to the badminton world tour schedule last year.

The events are the last two qualifying opportunities for the World Tour Finals to be held from January 27-31. Last week, Momota won the All-Japan championships in his first competition since his accident in January 2020, when the vehicle taking him to the airport after he won the Malaysia Masters crashed. The Yonex Thailand Open was to be his first competition abroad in a year.

“On behalf of the organizers, I deeply appreciate the decision of the Japanese team to have to withdraw from the competition over health concerns for other participants,” Badminton Association of Thailand president Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul said. “I wish all members of the Japanese team strong health and safety and hope to see them back on courts the soon.”

Earlier, China has withdrawn from the same tournaments after a surge of COVID-19 cases in the host country. The Chinese Badminton Association confirmed the withdrawal of its team from both tournaments. Last  year, only  two BWF World Tour events have been staged, the Denmark Open in Odense and the SaarLorLux Open in Saarbrücken in Germany.