Momota Kento returns to training after Malaysia car accident

Japanese world number one is back with the national team after being injured in a tragic car crash in January.

By ZK Goh ·

Badminton world number one Momota Kento has re-joined the Japanese national team for a training camp after making progress in his recovery from a January car accident.

The training camp, which runs from 3–9 February, is meant to prepare the national 'A' team for the Badminton Asia Team Championships, which begin in the Philippines on 11 February.

But Momota will not be in action in Manila. Instead, the hope is that the 25-year-old will make his competitive return at March's All England Open in Birmingham, where he is the defending champion.

Japan head coach Park Joo-bong, Barcelona 1992 doubles champion, said in a statement according to the BWF: "We will do our best to practice while watching (Momota’s) recovery from injury. And we are preparing for the current target, the All England Open 2020."

'Absolute miracle'

Momota was on his way to Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 13 January when the van he was being driven in crashed into the back of a lorry.

The driver was killed, while two Japanese team officials and a Badminton World Federation technical officer were injured alongside the shuttler.

Japan's two-time reigning world champion suffered facial injuries in the accident, including skin lacerations and bone fractures.

He was taken to Putrajaya Hospital near the Malaysian capital.

Nippon Badminton Association secretary-general Zeniya Kinji said later: "It's an absolute miracle for him to be in one piece after a crash like that."

Hot favourite for Olympic gold

Momota remains the clear favourite to win Olympic gold on home soil at Tokyo 2020 later this year.

No-one has knocked the Japanese off top spot in the BWF World Rankings since he first made it his own in September 2018.

He won a record 11 BWF titles in 2019, including the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals, and is the two-time defending world champion. But he has never been to an Olympics.

Then ranked world number four, Momota's hopes of a Games debut at Rio 2016 were ended when he accepted a one-year suspension from the Nippon Badminton Association for visiting an illegal casino in Tokyo.

All eyes will be on Momota whenever he does make his comeback, regardless of whether or not that is at the All England in March as planned.

Before that, he will join the national team for another training camp beginning on 20 February, for which he has been called up.