One of the biggest shocks at the Tokyo Olympics was the premature exit of world number one Kento Momota, who was touted as odds-on favourite to win the men’s singles gold on home soil.
The Japanese, who had endured a tumultuous journey since winning the Malaysia Masters in January 2020, failed to live up to expectations and crashed out in the group stage after losing in straight games to South Korea’s Heo Kwang-hee.
Former world number one Morten Frost said he was not surprised to see Momota below par.
“Expectations have been high on Momota, to waltz back into it and pick up from where he left off. But he’s shown he is only human.
“His preparations up till the Olympics have not been in his favour, and it showed. It showed at the All-England, and it showed at the Olympics. The burden of expectations, the car accident, COVID-19, everything.
“I’m not surprised that he did not make it, but I at least expected him to make the semis and give a good fight. But he will bounce back I’m sure,” Frost told the Badminton World Federation recently.
Momota had suffered multiple lacerations after the vehicle he was in crashed into the back of a trailer on the way to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, hours after he had won the Malaysia Masters.
The injuries put him out of commission for several months, as he had to undergo surgery for an eye socket fracture.
He later revealed to have considered quitting the sport altogether.
After the reigning world champion recovered, he was poised to make a comeback at this year’s Asian Tour in Thailand when another misfortune befell him again.
Momota tested positive for COVID-19 at the Narita Airport just as the Japanese contingent was about to depart for Bangkok, and as a result the entire team had to withdraw from the tournaments.
He finally made his long awaited comeback at the All-England in March, but crashed out in the quarter-finals after a straight game loss to Lee Zii Jia.
While Momota struggles to find his feet, the rest of the top men’s singles shuttlers caught up to him.
Viktor Axelsen became the man to beat following his gold medal triumph, while Lee, Anders Antonsen, Anthony Ginting and Chen Long proved to be genuine top contenders.