• Kyodo, AFP-JIJI


A van carrying Japan’s Kento Momota, the world No. 1 men’s badminton player, crashed into a truck early Monday morning, killing the driver, while Momota and three other passengers escaped with only slight injuries.

The accident came just hours after Momota won the Malaysia Masters. Japanese coach Yu Hirayama, trainer Akifumi Morimoto and William Thomas of England were also on board, according to a statement from the Fire and Rescue Services Department.

According to a statement from the Serdang district police, Momota suffered a broken nose as well as injuries to his lips and face.

The accident happened on a major highway before dawn as the group headed for Kuala Lumpur International Airport in a van, official news agency Bernama reported.

“The victim’s body and all the injured were sent to” a hospital in the administrative capital Putrajaya, Norazam Khamis, a senior official from the Depart of Fire and Rescue Services, was cited as saying.

Hours before the crash, Momota had easily defeated Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen 24-22, 21-11 in a boost for his preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

The 25-year-old enjoyed a stellar 2019 season, winning a record 11 titles, including the World Championships, Asia Championships and All England Open.

“It’s truly tragic, especially involving a badminton icon like Momota,” Malaysian sports minister Syed Saddiq told reporters, after visiting the injured in a hospital south of the capital.

But he added that those hurt were “recovering well, (and) all four are also in stable condition”.

The others hurt suffered facial, leg, hand and head injuries, according to the police.