Tokyo: Some lucky students in Tomioka – a town located in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture received unique facemasks with Kento Momota, Yuta Watanabe, and Arisa Higashino’s faces printed on them.
The World No. 1 men’s singles player, Kento Momota, World No. 4 men’s doubles and World No. 5 mixed doubles player, Yuta Watanabe, and Watanabe’s mixed doubles partner, Arisa Higashino, were all former students of Tomioka High School.
All three players are now getting ready to participate in the Tokyo Olympics that will kick off in two days.
“We can’t go to the stadium to support them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we can wear this mask and cheer loudly in our hearts. I am hoping we could wear this mask during their matches,” said the organizer who printed those facemasks.
“I’m really happy. The design was cute,” said a junior high school student.
“I want to support the Olympic athletes and hope they could do their best!” added the organizer of this initiative.
“The players said that they want to feel our support above all else, so I’m hoping they would feel it.”
About 3000 pieces of facemasks were created and will be distributed at public schools in Tomioka to show support to those three top badminton players.
Kento Momota became the World No. 1 in 2018 and then won 11 BWF World Tour Titles in 2019 including the World Championships. However, Momota’s road to the Olympics was not smooth. He was seriously injured in a fatal car accident in Jan of 2020 and was tested COVID-19 positive in Jan of 2021. After the car accident early last year, he spent pretty much the complete 2020 going through rehabilitation. He played his first tournament since Jan of 2020 at the 2021 All England but lost to Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia in the quarterfinals. Despite that, he is determined to win the first men’s singles Olympic gold medal for Japan in the Tokyo Games.
Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino were already playing as a pair in mixed doubles when they were in Tomioka high school. They are also strong contenders for the Olympic medals. They have won the 2018 and 2021 All England championships.
Meanwhile, Watanabe also aiming for the podium in the men’s doubles event with Hiroyuki Endo. Both Watanabe and Endo have won two consecutive All England titles since 2020.