Badminton world No. 1 Kento Momota tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, prompting the withdrawal of all Japan’s players from this month’s Thailand Open, Japan’s badminton association said.
“Momota has tested positive for the coronavirus, and the association has decided not to send any players, including Momota, to Thailand,” a Nippon Badminton Association official said.
Momota was looking to make his international comeback in Bangkok after almost a year out following a car crash that left him with serious injuries.
National broadcaster NHK said the 26-year-old tested positive at Narita airport ahead of the Japan team’s departure for Thailand.
An association official confirmed that none of the other 22 Japan players tested positive, but said the entire team would withdraw nonetheless.
The shuttler made no immediate comment on his social media accounts about the diagnosis.
Momota won the All-Japan championships last week in his first competition since his accident last January, when the vehicle taking him to the airport after he won the Malaysia Masters crashed, killing the driver.
Momota feared his career might be over after fracturing an eye socket in the accident, and admitted his “spirit was almost broken” after undergoing surgery.
The rescheduled Thailand Open is one of three tournaments taking place in Thailand this month, following disruptions to the badminton world tour schedule last year.
Momota came from behind to beat world No. 11 Kanta Tsuneyama in the final of last week’s All-Japan championships in Tokyo, giving him his third straight national title.
He is one of Japan’s brightest hopes for a gold medal on home soil at the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo Games this year.
Momota’s positive test comes as Japan battles a third wave of infections that has seen record numbers of cases in the capital and nationwide.
On Saturday, the governor of Tokyo and three surrounding regions asked the central government to declare a state of emergency in their areas over the rising number of cases.
The spike in infections comes with just over six months to go until the rescheduled Olympics, with public opinion in Japan still favoring a further postponement or outright cancellation over holding the games this summer.
But Japan’s government and organizers are insistent the event can go ahead and have drafted extensive coronavirus countermeasures.
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