World number one Kento Momota's long-awaited return to the international circuit got delayed after the Japanese tested positive for COVID-19, prompting his national team to pull out of upcoming events in Thailand, Badminton World Federation (BWF) said on Sunday. (More Badminton News)
Momota was looking forward to make his international comeback in Bangkok, a year after sustaining a career-threatening injury to his eye socket following a car accident on the way to Kuala Lumpur airport just hours after winning the Malaysia Masters last January.
"Badminton World Federation (BWF) and Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) can confirm that Japan's men's singles world No.1 Kento Momota has tested positive for COVID-19 after undergoing a mandatory PCR test at Narita Airport in Tokyo en route to Bangkok, Thailand earlier today," BWF said in a statement.
"Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) has subsequently withdrawn all its singles and doubles players from the YONEX Thailand Open (12-17 January 2021) and TOYOTA Thailand Open (19-24 January 2021).'
The 26-year-old, who won the All-Japan championships last week in his first competition since that accident, had gathered with the rest of the national squad at the National Training Centre at Kita, Tokyo on January 2.
"The entire Japanese team was due to fly out to Bangkok, Thailand for the badminton tournaments on the evening of January 3," BWF said.
The governing body said that it will "will invite replacement players and pairs for both tournaments from the list of reserves already scheduled to arrive into the 'Asian Leg Bubble' in Bangkok on or before 4 January and with a Certificate of Entry into Thailand."
The Asia leg events will lose a lot of sheen with national teams from Japan and China both withdrawing from the tournaments, the first in Asia since the COVID-19 shutdown last March.
China had pulled out due to restrictions imposed in view of the pandemic.