Kento Momota feared he might never play at an Olympics a number of incidents but is feeling "positive" about the Tokyo Games.
The uncertainty surrounding the Tokyo Olympics has led to a sedate build-up to the Games. A number of key stars will not be there, having pulled out due to safety concerns. There’s also the fact that fan appearances may be limited or off the cards right now. Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To make things worse, most Japanese citizens would prefer if the Games were called off. But not badminton star Kento Momota.
The Japanese badminton star has never featured in the Olympics and was desperate to do so at home. He was banned from the team in the Rio Olympics in 2016 due to gambling offences.
Then, in January 2020, he suffered a number of injuries in a car accident. It seemed likely he would miss the Olympics this time around too. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the Games to be pushed back by a year.
As a result, Momota will be able to be part of the Olympics. And it is something he is thankful for.
“When the Games were postponed by a year and then it was on the news that they might be cancelled, I thought a lot about how I might not be able to play at the Olympics,” Momota told reporters Thursday.
“But a lot of people have worked hard to put the competition on, and I’ve just tried to block out the noise and put everything into the things I can control.”
Momota added that his physical fitness has improved “little by little”. He “feels really good” going into the tournament and is only focusing on the positives.
“I’m not thinking negative thoughts – I’m only thinking positive thoughts,” he said.
He also admitted that recovering from the accident made him tougher mentally. “I think the area where I’ve really grown is mentally,” he said.
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of difficulties, and the fact that I’ve worked hard to get here gives me confidence going into the competition.”
However, he also admits that playing now in a COVID-19 affected world is tough. He felt “really lonely” on his comeback as there were no fans in attendance.
“It was important for me to experience the feeling you get playing in a real match,” he said.
“There were no fans in the arena and it felt really lonely. I couldn’t concentrate and I couldn’t settle, so I’ve paid attention to that in practice.”
Momota will be looking to hold off the challenge of Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen in Tokyo, with China’s defending champion Chen Long also in contention.
The pandemic has forced the cancellation of tournaments around the world, but Momota is not worried about scouting his opponents.
“I haven’t been able to fully grasp their characteristics and play styles, but it’s the same for them too,” he said.
“Everyone is in the same boat, so you really need to focus on playing your own game as best you can.”