The world’s most reputable, respected, and admired sporting event, the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is just a month away. Badminton will be featured for the 12th time in the Olympics since its induction in the 1992 Barcelona games.
A total of 34 medals have been contested to date and 18 of those being won by China. An event in the Olympics, Japan has never done well. From the last 8 outings, Japan has won a total of 3 medals, all these medals coming from the women’s category. There was a tingle of anticipation in 2016 in the form of 21-year-old Kento Momota, but that too went in vain as he was banned from participating in all forms of badminton for 1 year by the Japanese federation on disciplinary grounds.
Kento Momota, aged 26 years, currently ranked world no.1, has 2 BWF Grand Prix titles, 4 BWF Superseries titles, 14 BWF World tour titles, and 7 BWF International challenge titles to his name. In 2019, he won a total of 11 titles thus creating a world record for the most number of titles in a single season. All of them in a career that has spanned less than a decade.
Kento Momota with his dedication and hard work achieved success at an early age. When Momota was suspended from the sport, he was just 21 years old, ranked world no.2, and looked unerring on his road to the 2016 Rio Olympics. A time which he recalls as the darkest phase of his career. Momota took that time to work on himself, and when the ban was lifted, he was a different player. A relentless beast of a player.
After a world-record-setting 2019 season, Kento Momota returned to the 2020 season by winning Malaysia Master against his arch-rival Viktor Axelsen. His phenomenal career took another ‘U’ turn when he met with a car accident in January 2020. This tragic incident happened when the champion was on his way to the Kuala Lumpur airport after the Malaysia Master. Career-threatening injuries that saw him out of the main stage for more than 12 months. Momota declared himself fit to travel to Bangkok for Yonex Thailand Open, but he had to withdraw as he tested positive for Coronavirus. His only outing was at the 2021 All England Championships where he was beaten in the quarter-finals by the Malaysian Lee Zii Jia who went on to win the championship.
One of the main reasons behind the Japanese resurgence is due to their chief coach Park Joo-Bong. During his playing days, Park Joo-Bong was ranked world No.1 in men’s doubles and mixed doubles. Nippon badminton association appointed Park Joo-Bong in 2002. Before his appointment, Japan was not a top-8 team in Thomas Cup. Now Japan is a formidable force in world badminton. The South Korean legend is a huge disciplinarian and doesn’t tolerate any nonsense from the players.
With an uncompromising attitude, this indeed will be his and Japan’s best bet at the illustrious games. To capture gold at the Olympics, Japan will have Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi along with Kento Momota firing in all cylinders to get that all eminent GOLD.