Former Number One Kento Momota Retires From International Badminton At 29


Two-time world champion Kento Momota said on Thursday he is retiring from international badminton at the age of 29, admitting he has never been the same since a serious car accident four years ago. Japan's Momota was once the uncrowned king of badminton, winning 11 titles in 2019 and losing only six out of 73 matches played that year. But in January 2020, hours after winning the Malaysia Masters, the vehicle carrying him to Kuala Lumpur airport crashed. The driver was killed and Momota required surgery to repair a broken eye socket.

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

“At the time of the accident, if I say I didn't think, 'Why me?'” Momota told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday. So I'll lie.”

Now ranked 52nd and having missed a spot at the Paris Olympics, Momota will retire from the Japan national team after playing at the Thomas and Uber Cup in China later this month.

After this, he will play only in domestic competitions in Japan and not in the Badminton World Tour.

“There were very difficult times after that traffic accident,” Momota said.

“I tried through trial and error to get back to the way I used to play, but there was a disconnect between my emotions and my body.

“That continued and I knew I would never be able to get back to the level where I was competing with the best in the world.”

'a lot of difficulty'

Smiling broadly but pausing frequently to choose the right words during his 45-minute press conference, Momota said he had no regrets about retiring from top-level badminton.

He said, “There was a lot of difficulty and it tired me, but I didn't want to blame the hard times on the accident.”

“I wanted to get through it and that attitude, along with the support of the people around me, at least allowed me to find my footing.”

“It's a pleasure to share the court with you,” said Victor Axelsen, who replaced Momota as the world's best men's player.

“I consider myself lucky to be able to compete with a player of your caliber,” the current number one player wrote on Twitter.

Momota was targeting this summer's Paris Olympics but his national ranking was not high enough to earn him a spot on Japan's team.

He was banned from selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics due to gambling in illegal casinos.

He suffered a shock defeat in the opening round of the Tokyo Games in 2021, which he described as “nothing but a disappointing memory”.

He said, “I don't think I was completely prepared for it but I had dreamed of playing in the Olympics for a long time and in that respect it was a good experience.”

Momota urged his Japan teammates to learn from their mistakes and stay calm when they take to the Olympic court in Paris.

He said, “I really realized how difficult it is to do the things you normally do, so don't think about the result, just give it your all so you don't have any regrets.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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