Kento Momota Secures His 6th All-Japan Badminton Championships Title

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Congratulations to Kento Momota for winning his 6th All-Japan Badminton Championships. (photo: Ryohei Moriya)
Congratulations to Kento Momota for winning his 6th All-Japan Badminton Championships. (photo: Ryohei Moriya)

Tokyo: Former world champion Kento Momota clinched his 6th title in the All-Japan Badminton Championships on Saturday. He defeated the skilled 24-year-old Koki Watanabe with scores of 21-12, 17-21, 21-11 in the men’s singles final. Despite this victory, Momota acknowledges the formidable challenge for him to secure a spot in the Paris Olympics next year.

Highlights of Kento Momota vs. Koki Watanabe in the 2023 All Japan Badminton Championships final:

Momota, who faced a serious car accident in Malaysia in January 2020, has been grappling to recapture his pre-accident performance. His performance in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics saw him exit in the group stage, falling short of competing for the gold medal. Presently positioned at 38th in the global men’s singles rankings and 51st in Olympic qualification points, Momota confronts a challenging journey to secure a spot in the Paris Olympics.

Speaking to the Japanese media, Momota expressed the difficulty of vying for an Olympic spot, stating, “Even if I can’t participate in the Olympics, my badminton career won’t end. As long as I compete, I will wholeheartedly invest in the game.”

Momota, playing through a back injury in the 2023 All-Japan Badminton Championships, views this tournament as crucial in determining Japan’s top player. Winning the championship brings him joy and the support from numerous fans adds to his happiness.

Among Japan’s top men’s singles players, Koki Naraoka holds the highest global ranking at 2nd, but he withdrew in the semi-finals due to injury. Kenta Nishimoto ranks 12th in the world men’s singles, Kanta Tsuneyama is 13th, and Koki Watanabe is 23rd in the world.

In the women’s singles final, former world champion Nozomi Okuhara faced the 20-year-old Kaoru Sugiyama. After winning the first game 21-17, Okuhara’s performance declined noticeably in the second game. Experiencing discomfort and bending over multiple times, she lost the second game 18-21. With the match tied 1-1, Okuhara tearfully withdrew from the deciding game, missing out on her 6th championship in the tournament’s history.

Okuhara, who won bronze at the Rio Olympics and secured gold at the 2017 World Championships, has faced performance challenges due to injuries in recent years. Currently ranked below Akane Yamaguchi and Aya Ohori in Japan’s women’s singles, she needs to accumulate points before the qualification period for the Paris Olympics concludes in April next year.

After the semi-final match, Okuhara felt discomfort in her right foot. Despite hoping to play until the end of the final, she expressed regret for not completing the match and apologized to her opponent, Kaoru Sugiyama.

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