Badminton: Kento Momota makes winning return after gambling ban

Momota returned to court after a year's absence on Saturday at Japan's Ranking Circuit Competition

Kento Momota
Kento Momota's indefinite ban was lifted earlier this month Reuters

Former world number two Kento Momota returned to badminton action after his gambling ban on Saturday, representing his corporate team NTT East at the Japan Ranking Circuit Competition, which is being played from 27 May to 1 June in Saitama City.

Notably, the 22-year-old's indefinite ban, which was slapped on him last April after he conceded to gambling in illegal casinos in the country, was lifted on 15 May. Momota had not played ever since he abruptly withdrew from last year's Malaysia Open, shortly after he won the India Superseries title, beating Viktor Axelsen in the title match.

Momota was a bright medal hope for Japan at the Rio Olympics, but Nippon Badminton Association (NBA)'s indefinite ban rendered him ineligible to compete the quadrennial global event. The 2015 World Championships bronze medallist though had trained with his corporate teammates despite not participating in any tournaments in the one-year-ban period.

The Japanese badminton star was greeted by a large number of fans who had gathered there to watch the shuttler make return to the badminton courts. He decimated his first-round opponent Shu Wada, whom he had trained with in his company, in straight games (21-7, 21-8) after which he acknowledged the crowd by bowing five times in all four directions, according to badzine.net.

Momota revealed he will take one match at a time from now and that he feels motivated after seeing the support he was recieving from his countrymen on his return to the sport.

"Actually, I was in nervous and could not sleep until midnight yesterday but I could relax a bit because many spectators gave me a big hand when I came onto the court. Many people have supported me on and off the court during my time of suffering and I realised I love badminton very much," Momota said, as quoted by the news portal.

Notably, there is very little chance that Momota will make return to international circuit in 2017. The winner of four Superseries titles is expected to feature in Japan's top domestic tournament - All Japan Championship in December this year. A good run in the tournament will help the world beater make a giant stride towards getting back to top-level competitions.

This article was first published on May 28, 2017
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