Badminton world number one Kento Momota was released from a Malaysian hospital Wednesday and boarded a plane back to Japan, two days after he was treated for injuries in a car crash in which his driver was killed.
The 25-year-old Japanese faces two months out after suffering cuts to his face and multiple bruises when the vehicle carrying him to Kuala Lumpur International Airport crashed in the early hours of Monday.
“Momota has been discharged from hospital. He is heading back to Japan this morning,” Norza Zakaria, president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia told AFP.
Momota, wearing a dark cap and a face mask, left on a Malaysian Airlines flight to Tokyo’s Narita airport at 9:40 am (0140 GMT).
“Momota is on flight MH70. The plane has taken off,” Norza confirmed.
An assistant coach, physiotherapist, and badminton official also suffered minor injuries in the highway crash, seen as a blow to Momota’s preparations for this year’s Tokyo Olympics where he will attempt to win gold on home soil to complete a full set of major titles.
The accident occurred just hours after he began his 2020 season in style on Sunday with victory over Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen in Kuala Lumpur. Momota had been in Putrajaya public hospital outside the capital Kuala Lumpur since Monday.
Momota will now aim to return to action at the All England Championships on March 11, the secretary general of Japan’s Badminton Association Kinji Zeniya told AFP on Tuesday.
Momota, who won a record 11 titles last year had “extraordinary enthusiasm towards the Olympics” this year in Tokyo, added Zeniya, but urged the gold medal favourite to take time to recuperate fully.
“I hope he will do his best without pushing and rushing himself too hard and without being impatient,” said Zeniya.
The driver was killed at the scene while Momota received cuts to his face and bruising all over his body, Zeniya said, denying previous reports that he had broken his nose and chin.
Momota, currently the best player on the planet, enjoyed unrivalled success in 2019, with his title haul including the World Championship, Asia Championship and All England Championship -- a dramatic turnaround for a player who had been banned for gambling in 2016.