December 1, 2021

Badminton’s No. 1 Momota out of Tokyo Olympics after first round defeat

2 min read

Just days after Japan’s biggest star Naomi Osaka was knocked out of the Olympic Tennis competition, another top seed athlete from the host nation exited early in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics following defeat. Badminton’s World No. 1 Kento Momota was beaten in straight games by unseeded South Korean Heo Kwang-hee 21-15, 21-19 to end his men’s badminton singles gold-medal bid after just two games.

The Tokyo Games was Momota’s first appearance in the badminton court and the Olympics, having been banned for gambling in illegal casino just months before the 2016 Rio Games and after the tragic car crash in January last year. His competition ban was lifted in May 2017.  He finished second in his group and only the top-ranked player advancing to the round of 16 at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza. 

“I got off to a pretty strong start, but midway through I couldn’t stay in it mentally. I couldn’t play with confidence,” Momota said. “If you ask me whether I have any regrets, I would say that I do. A lot of people helped me reach this court. It was tough, but I gave it my all.” Momota also cited “weakness” following the loss, owing it to the accident in Malaysia last year where he fractured his eye socket.

He suffered double vision and needed surgery on a bone near his eye that almost end his career. “Previously, when a game went like this, I would be able to recover and think clearly,” he said. “I would have been able to pull through. But I couldn’t recover tonight, and that’s down to my weakness.” Momota also revealed that making his Olympic debut had overwhelmed him.

“A lot of things happened, but thanks to the efforts of many people I got to feel the tension and experience what it’s like to play at an Olympics. I really appreciate that,” added Momota, who is also one of the Olympic flag bearers during the opening ceremony, representing Asia. Meanwhile, Japan’s delegates in women’s doubles were also out of the Games following the quarter final defeat. 

Japan’s reigning world champions Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara crashed out of the badminton women’s doubles in a 21-14, 14-21, 28-26 defeat to South Korean pair Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong, while top seeds Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota lost 18-21, 21-10, 21-10 to second-seeded Chinese pair Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan.

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