Momota is back to throw Japan's challenge in E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships
(*Credit image: Badzine.net )
Heartthrob Kento Momota is back in the Japanese national team and badminton fans will get to see the the 23-year-old at this year's E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships 2018 in Alor Setar, Malaysia next month.
Momota, paid a heavy price for his folly of betting in illegal casinos and was slapped an indefinite ban in April 2016 after he was recalled home to face charges of gross indiscipline while competing the Malaysia Open.
Also suspended was teammate Kenichi Tago for the same offence.
The suspension saw Momota, who was once ranked No 2 in the world, miss out the 2016 Rio Olympics where he was a good bet for medal.
But that is history for the talented shuttler who is now back in the good books of the Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) with an eye on the "Big Goal" which is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 'Big Goal" journey begins at the Sultan Abdul Halim Stadium in Alor Setar, Kedah when Japan compete in the E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships from Feb 5-11 which also serve as the continental qualifier for the Thomas Cup Finals scheduled to be held in Bangkok from May 20-27 at the Impact Arena.
The top four (semi-finalists) will gain an automatic qualification for the Thomas Cup Finals.
Japan, runners-up to Indonesia at the last Asia meet in Hyderabad, India in 2016 are seeded fourth in Alor Setar but are highly touted as potential champions.
Momota was in the team in 2016 and won his match against Ihsan Maulana Mustofa 21-17, 21-7 but it was not enough to stop Indonesia from clinching the title with a thrilling 3-2 win.
For the record Momota was also in Japan's victorious Thomas Cup team in the 2014 Finals in New Delhi, India.
Momota led Japan to a historic 3-2 win over Malaysia in the final and in the process Japan became only the fourth nation to win the Thomas Cup after Indonesia, China and Malaysia.
Momota, the 2012 world junior champion, had an outstanding Thomas Cup Finals in New Delhi - where he won all his matches for the team.
He is also the first Japanese player to win a medal in the world championships and this was achieved in Jakarta in 2015 when he beat Chinese ace Chen Long for the bronze medal.
During his suspension Momota's world ranking dropped to 280.
However, after making his comeback to competitive badminton in July 2017 he has worked his way up to 47 in the ranking list following is triumph in the Macau Open - his first Grand Prix Gold and his fifth title on the trot.
Earlier he won the K&D Graphics International Series, the Yonex Belgian International, the Li-Ning Czech Open and the Yonex Dutch Open.
His 47 does not make him the number one in Japan but he is certainly the trump card in the team's lineup.
Kazumasa Sakai tops the list at 21 followed by Kanta Tsuneyama (27) and Kenta Nishimoto (29).
Japan also have strong doubles pair in Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda who are ranked a high No 5 with their second doubles Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi ranked No 17.
Their third pair Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe is ranked 28.
The Japanese Team (world rankings in brackets)
Kazumasa Sakai (21)
Kanta Tsuneyama (27)
Kenta Nishimoto (29)
Kento Momota (47)
Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda (5)
Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi (17)
Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe (28)