Kento Momota recently proclaimed one of his biggest motivations to excel in professional badminton came after watching Lin Dan, billed the greatest of all time, in action when the Japanese was still young.
"When I was young I watched Lin Dan’s matches, and I knew I wanted to be a superstar like him. In that moment, I decided to train harder. When I first played Lin Dan, he was so impressive that I felt intimidated.
"I felt a sense of admiration more than a desire to win. I want to become an admired player like him. I will continue to work hard to be like Lin Dan,” he said.
The reigning world champion’s first match against the five-time world champion came at the 2015 All England, where Momota lost in straight games.
Momota would, however, emerge victorious in all his next four showdowns against Lin Dan, who retired earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Japan head coach Park Joo-jong believes his star man is back to his best, after being out of action since January when he was involved in an accident in Kuala Lumpur.
Momota was supposed to play at the recent Denmark Open but pulled out along with 14 of his national team-mates at the last minute.
"Then there was a spike in numbers in Denmark the club owners asked the players to stay back. We had confirmed everything, hotel, flight tickets, everything,” Park told the Badminton World Federation's official website.
In Japan, the national players are contracted to their clubs and unless there is national team participation involved, the clubs are the decision makers.
At the Denmark Open, Japan still went on to win one title through Nozomi Okuhara, who beat Carolina Marin to clinch the women’s singles title.
Momota and the rest of the Japanese squad are now preparing for the Asian leg in January, which comprises of three backdated tournaments from this year.
After that, the 2021 season will resume where Olympic qualification points are up for grabs until April.