Badminton in Tokyo 2020: Top shuttler Momota shines on Games debut

Timothy Lam of the US had his moments - once bringing his "favourite player" Momota to his knees - but he was no match for Japan's darling on his home turf.

Japan shuttler Kento Momota in action against Timothy Lam of the United States in Tokyo on Sunday.   -  GETTY IMAGES

In his long-overdue Olympic debut, men's singles number one Kento Momota of Japan easily beat the United States' Timothy Lam 21-12 21-9 on Sunday, even making the occasional trick shot behind his back during their warm-up.

Though Lam had his moments - once bringing his "favourite player" Momota to his knees - he was no match for Japan's darling on his home turf.

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Momota's journey to Tokyo 2020 has been fraught with personal and professional setbacks, including contracting COVID-19. The 26-year-old was embroiled in an illegal gambling scandal months before the Rio Games in 2016, and banned by the Nippon Badminton Association.

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Then world number two, Momota was stripped from the league tables and by the time he got back on the court in 2017, he was ranked 282nd. With a 39-match unbeaten streak, he clawed his way back to the top.

But Momota's Olympic dreams seemed crushed again in early 2020 when he was in a car accident that left the driver dead and damaged his sight among other injuries. He had time to recover during the pandemic, making a comeback at the All-England Open in March to lift Japanese hopes for Olympic gold.

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