SEPANG: Will world No. 1 Kento Momota of Japan return for the Malaysian Open from March 31-April 5?
Judging by the 25-year-old’s smile in response to the wish of Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) just before he left for Japan yesterday, he may just do that.
Momota was among the four hurt in a fatal road accident that killed his driver on early Monday morning, when the van he was travelling in the KLIA crashed into the back of a slow-moving lorry.
The incident took place just hours after he had won the Malaysian Masters for his first victory in Malaysia.
Norza said he told Momota that the Malaysian badminton fans would love to see him return to Kuala Lumpur in the next three months despite his bittersweet stay in the last 11 days.
“Before parting ways with Momota, I told him again that we’re sad and sorry about what had happened, ” said Norza, who personally oversaw the travel arrangement for Momota and his entourage to the KLIA yesterday.
“I wished him a speedy recovery and told him that we’re hoping to see him again for the Malaysian Open.
“He responded with a smile.”
The Malaysian Open is one of the last few tournaments before the one-year Olympic qualifying period ends on April 30.
And it will not be a long wait to know if Momota will compete in the Malaysian Open. The entry deadline is on Feb 18.
Momota, who suffered bruises and cuts, was seen for the first time in public since the accident yesterday and his condition appeared reassuring as he could move without walking aids.
Momota is expected to be out for two months. The Japan BA secretary Kinji Zeniya had stated in a press conference in Tokyo that they were targeting for the two-time world champion to return at the All-England from March 11-15.
Momota will not be missing on much big action until then except for the Asian Team Championships in Manila from Feb 11-16.
Momota with another two victims – assistant coach Yu Hirayama and physiotherapist Arkifuki Morimoto – were discharged from the Putrajaya Hospital at 10pm on Tuesday and were booked into the Sama-Sama Hotel before their 9.40am flight to Tokyo yesterday.
A separate arrangement was made for the fourth victim, Hawkeye operator William Thomas.
“We made the travel arrangement after getting clearance from the doctors to leave the hospital. We housed them at a hotel nearby the airport for them to rest before flying, ” explained Norza.
“Momota was calm and didn’t have much to say. All he wanted was to return to his country as soon as possible.”
Norza also commended all parties for collective efforts in handling the matter efficiently and promptly.
He personally thanked the prime minister’s wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, the Deputy Prime Minister and patron Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and his deputy Steven Sim, who had all taken their time to visit the victims.
“Not forgetting also the police and fire department, the Putrajaya Hospital medical team who had given excellent services and treatment, and our BAM staff headed by secretary Datuk Kenny Goh, who worked tremendously hard over the last few days.”