Monday, August 15, 2022

Kento Momota: 14 Facts About The Relentless Japanese Badminton Player

Kento Momota is a Japanese athlete who competes in badminton, specializing in men’s singles. He won three medals at the Badminton World Championships between the years 2015 and 2019.

Kento Momota: 14 Rare Things About The Comeback King of Badminton

1. Kento Momota’s childhood and upbringing: 

Kento Momota was born on September 1, 1994 to his father Nobuhiro Momota who wanted his son to be “the most powerful man in the world”, so he named him after the DC comic character Superman Clark Kent (Kent’s Japanese pronunciation is Kento).

Momota came into this world in Sanno Town, Mitutoyo County (currently Mitutoyo City), Kagawa Prefecture. He graduated from Mitutoyo City Yoshitsu Elementary School. When he was 13 years old, he went to Fukushima Prefecture to attend the local badminton school. 

2. Early career success:

By the age of 15, he had won the All Japan Junior Badminton Championship, and reached the record of the youngest player in the All Japan Championship in the third grade of middle school. 

In 2011, Momota went to Indonesia to take part in the competition the day before the Great East Japan Earthquake, and escaped the impact of the earthquake; the Fukushima nuclear disaster followed shortly thereafter, and his school closed because it was in a radiation leakage warning zone. Kagawa returned to Fukushima Prefecture’s Inawashiro high school two months later to start training. 

In the same year of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Kento Momota won third place in the men’s singles of the Asian Youth Championship and the World Youth Championship. These seem to be the most Superman-related things he had done! But there’s more! 

In 2012, as a senior in high school, he advanced to the semi-finals of the adult group in the Osaka International Challenge for the first time. At that time, Momota lost to the former Japanese national team player Kazuji Yamada. He also won the country at the same time. The champion of the high school comprehensive sports competition, the Asian Youth Championship and the World Youth Championship, and the first Japanese player to win the World Youth Badminton Championship. 

3. Promising adult career and international success:

In 2013, Kento Momota, who graduated from high school, joined the NTT East Japan Badminton Team and was selected for the Japanese National Team. 

The pro-athlete had started to compete in adult competitions, ranking first in that year.

When he first played in the All-Japan Badminton Championships, he won the championship and in January of that year, Kento Momota defeated Finland’s Etu Heino in the Estonian International Men’s Singles Final, winning his first adult international group. 

After winning the championship in Stockholm, Sweden and Austria in the two international challenges, he advanced to the semi-finals of the Super Series for the first time at the end of the year in China’s Premier Super Tournament but he lost to Chinese player Wang Zhiming.

4. Winning the coveted Thomas Cup:

Kento Momota was selected for Japan’s Thomas Cup in May 2014 and played in the 28th Thomas Cup as the second singles player. He scored 3 wins and 0 losses in the group stage, beating England’s Reese Walker, Hong Kong’s Wei Nan and Denmark’s Victor Assalson respectively, helping the Japanese team advance to the group first. 

The Japanese team defeated the French team, in the quarter-finals, which advanced to the knockout round for the first time, by 3-1. In the semi-finals facing the Chinese team seeking to defend their title, Kento Momota, who was the number two singles player which allowed Japan to defeat its opponent in straight three. In the final against another traditional badminton powerhouse, Malaysia, Kento Momota defeated Malaysian star Zhang Weifeng giving Japan a 2-1 lead. In the end, the Japanese team won 3-2. 

The fourth national team to win the cup also symbolizes that Japanese badminton has entered the ranks of strong teams

The same year, in the Asian Games men’s team competition, Kento Momota once again played the second singles. When the Japanese team fell 0-2 in the quarter-finals against the homeland team South Korea, Kento Momota lost one game and then won two games to reverse his opponent Lee Dong-geun, allowing the Japanese team to continue the game and show its resistance in the team competition.

5. The Super Tournament and the first championship of 2015:

In April 2015, Kento Momota defeated Wei Nan of Hong Kong, Tiancheng Zhou of Chinese Taipei, and Simon Santoso of Indonesia in the Singapore Super Tournament to advance to the finals. In May, Momota, who was ranked eighth in the world at the time, represented Japan in the Sudirman Cup for the second time. He won both games against Russia and Chinese Taipei in the group stage, helping Japan advance to the top of the group.

In August 2015, Kento Momota participated in the men’s singles event of the World Badminton Championships in Jakarta, Indonesia as the fourth seed. He eliminated Germany’s Dieter Dumac 2-0, Canada’s Martin Juffre, and Vietnam’s Ruan Jinming to advance to the quarterfinals; he faced Hong Kong’s Wei Nan in the semi-finals and also won and reached the semi-finals. 

Kento Momota faced the top seed and defended Chen Long in the semi-finals, and lost in third place. After the game, Momota said that he did not lose because of pressure, but that his opponent was perfect in every shot and every ball, which caused him to have many unnecessary spontaneous errors. He later stated on his social networking site that this defeat made him determined to make himself stronger. 

In December, Momota defeated Denmark’s Ansai Long in the Super Series Finals.

6. Participation in illegal gambling got him banned in 2016:

Kento Momota, as the first singles, represented Japan in February 2016, men’s team competition of the Asian Team Championship, and helped the team advance to the final against Indonesia.

Momota took the lead, winning the victory in the first game, but Japan still lost to Indonesia with a total score of 2 to 3 and finished runner-up 

Momota Kento, who was only 21 years old and regarded as the favorite to win the Rio Olympic Games, was caught by the Japanese police on April 7, 2016.

He was found at an illegal casino, and Kento Momota was suspected of participating in it. He abandoned the ongoing Malaysia Premier Super Tournament and returned to China for police investigation. On April 8, Kento Momota and his senior Kenichi Tian Er held an apology press conference in Tokyo. Momota admitted that under Tianer’s introduction, from October 2014 to January 2015, he participated in gambling at illegal casinos in Sumida District, Tokyo six times. 

The gambler’s bets ranged from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of yen and more than 500,000 yen was spent. 

Ever the competitor, Momota said that although “I knew it was not possible, but out of curiosity, I just wanted to play.” He apologized for gambling, believing that it had failed all the people who cultivated him and the people of Fukushima Prefecture so far, and hoped to be forgiven and forgotten by the outside world.

7. Facing backlash and suspensions:

On April 10, 2016, the Japan Badminton Association held an emergency council to formally announce that Kento won’t be the representative of the Japanese national team for the Rio Olympics. He will be expelled from the national team and suspended indefinitely

Eisuke Hiraoka, the executive director of the Japanese Olympic Committee, said that Kento Momota is a top player, but his behavior is regrettable. He also asked individual associations to take this as a warning, and athletes must abide by the law.

Afterwards, Japan’s NTT East Japan Company also imposed a 30-day suspension on Momota  The World Badminton Federation also issued a statement, because Kento Momota and Kenichi Tian have been suspended for more than a year, and the two would be removed from the world rankings according to regulations at the time. 

8. Return to the game in 2017:

After more than a year of suspension, the Japan Badminton Association, based on the report of the NTT East Japan Badminton Team to which Kento Momota belongs, decided to lift his suspension penalty.

Momota, who had just returned without a world ranking, couldn’t join the national team so he needed to participate in low-level international competitions to accumulate ranking points. The Japan Badminton Association also specifically made Kento Momota participate in international competitions at his own expense. 

9. Matches from his own expense:

On May 27, 2017, Kento Momota played in the Japanese Badminton Ranking Tournament held in Saitama City. On May 31, Kento Momota defeated Ueda Takuma and won the first championship after his comeback. He was tearful in the post-match awards. 

In July, Kento Momota signed up for the Canadian Grand Prix and the American Gold Grand Prix at his own expense. In the Canadian Grand Prix, Kento Momota, who did not have a world ranking, broke into the main race from the qualifying round and advanced all the way to the final. In the final, he lost 1-2 to his teammate in the 77-minute match. 

So, he switched to the US International Series and defeated Guatemalan player Kevin Corden in the final, winning the first international championship after his comeback. Since then, Kento Momota has won consecutive championships in the domestic All-Japan Badminton Championships and international competitions in Belgium[54], Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Macau. 

With five consecutive championships in the international arena, the Japan Badminton Association promised Momota Kento that he would return to the national team if he could enter the finals of the All Japan Championships in December. However, he unexpectedly lost to Takeshita in the quarter-finals. 

Although he failed to achieve the goal, his national team head coach Park Joo Bong announced with his performance in international competitions that Kento Momota will use the Japanese Olympic Committee players to strengthen the headquarters. 

10. World Championships win and rankings of 2018:

Although Kento Momota returned to the national team at the end of 2017, he was still unable to participate in the All England Open in March due to insufficient points.

In the semifinals, Momota defeated the No. 5 seed of the tournament, Malaysia’s Li Zongwei and Momota faced the No. 3 seed and defending champion of China Chenlong in the final. 

He also defeated his opponent in 2 rounds becoming the first Japanese player to win the Asian Championships men’s singles championship. 

Competitors such as Li Zongwei and Chen Long were opponents he had never defeated before the suspension. Kento Momota said after the game: “I don’t just aim to be second in the world, but I want to be number one in the world. Of course, I also want to take back the lost time in the past and compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.” 

With the points gained from winning the Asian Championships, Kento Momota’s world ranking rose to 12th when the Thomas Cup was held in late May and became the world’s highest ranked Japanese men’s singles, once again as the number one singles. 

After a lapse of four years; Japan eventually lost to China 1 to 3 and only won the runner-up, but Momota maintained a record of victory from the group stage to the final. 

In June 2018, Kento Momota played in the highest-level Open since returning to the arena-the Malaysian Open, and once again defeated Sun Wanhu, Zhou Tiancheng, Srikant Kidambi and other top ten players in the world. 

But Kento Momota was defeated by Li Zongwei who won the 12th time in the event. At the Indonesian Open held the following week, Momota and Li Zongwei met again in the semi-finals. This time he won by straight two and Li Zongwei suffered from nasopharynx after this duel. He left the arena due to cancer, making Momota the last opponent in his career.

In the International Open in the second half of 2018, Kento Momota won the Japanese Open in his hometown and advanced to the finals at the China Open held every other week. 

Thanks to his outstanding performance throughout the year, Kento Momota’s world ranking points exceeded the 100,000 mark on November 15th, becoming the third achiever after Li Zongwei and Chen Long, and he participated as the second seed. 

11. In 2019, he broke the single-season championship record:

In January 2019, Kento Momota first lost to his teammate Kenta Nishimoto in the first round of the Malaysian Masters and then went to the Indonesian Masters. Although the match advanced to the finals, he lost to Denmark’s Anders Antonsen again. Although he lost two consecutive stops, after winning the German Open in February, he played back to back in the All England Open held the following week, and finally reached 2-1 in the men’s singles final and defeated the No. 6 seed of the tournament, Denmark’s Ansai Long, to become the first men’s singles champion from Japan since 121 years in the history of the All England Championship.

In September, he also played in the China Badminton Open. In the men’s singles final, he defeated Anthony Sinisuka Ginting who was seeking him for the first time. 

 Kento Momota also played in the Korea Badminton Open. In the men’s singles final, he defeated the No. 2 seed of the tournament and Taiwan’s first brother Zhou Tiancheng 2-0 (21-19, 21-17), and won the eighth personal championship of the season making him the first Japanese player to win the men’s singles championship in this event.

12. 2020 car accident incident:

Momota took the car from Sepang, Selangor on the 13th after winning the championship at the 2020 Malaysian Badminton Masters on January 12. 

Before returning to Kuala Lumpur International Airport in the county, a car accident occurred on Mammoth Avenue, causing head injuries, and the driver of the vehicle he was riding in died on the spot. Momota is lucky to be alive.

13. On January 3, 2021, Momota was diagnosed with COVID-19:

He was originally expected to fly for the Thailand Open but after the diagnosis, the team’s expedition was canceled. 

But on November 21st, Kento Momota defeated Anders Antonsen in the singles final of the Indonesian Badminton Masters, which ended the 22-month championship drought. 

14. Technical evaluation of him as a badminton player:

When he first debuted, Kento Momota had excellent pre-net skills and offensive awareness, and his technique was delicate and his mentality was stable.  Past the net; the offensive performance is strong, the left and right sides can kill the ball accurately on the sideline 

Before being suspended in 2016, Momota was a typical net-control player who was good at using front-net skills to create opportunities for him to attack in the backcourt. Because he had no advantage in height, he made the left and right defensive range smaller and his defensive ability was relatively ordinary.

When mentioning Kento Momota, famous badminton players and his fellow competitors such as Li Zongwei, Chen Long, Ansailong, and Taufik all commented on his comprehensive skills, few mistakes and stable performance. 

For example, Zhou Tiancheng said that Kento Momota has a lot of changes in the ball and needs to think a lot on the court, so he will be mentally tired when playing against him. 

The head coach of the Malaysian national team, Huang Zonghan, believes that he is one of the last players who have experienced Lin Dan and Li Zongwei’s era. Training requirements in all aspects must reach the peak to fight against them, thus creating the present Kento Momota. 

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