Kento is back but champs could be out of Thomas Cup

Ready for action: Kento Momota has been given the all clear to lead Japan’s challenge in the Thomas Cup Finals in Denmark.

PETALING JAYA: Japan will compete in the Thomas Cup Finals with world No. 1 singles player Kento Momota poised to make a grand return but defending champions China’s presence in Denmark is a big question mark. Japan’s head coach Park Joo-bong said their government had finally given the blessings for them to take part in the Finals in Aarhus from Oct 3-11.

Japan, however, will only begin their centralised training for both the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup on Sept 1.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to all badminton activities around the world, Japan’s players had only been training with their respective clubs.

“At the moment, it’s all systems go for Japan. I can confirm that we will take part in the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals, ” said Joo-bong.

“We are now getting approval from the clubs to release the players. Usually, we do not have to get permission from the clubs but because of the Covid-19, we have some processes to follow.

“It should not be a problem. By Sept 1, we will begin our centralised training.”

Joo-bong is also happy with the return of Momota, who had to stop playing even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit after he was involved in a road accident a day after winning the Malaysian Masters in January early this year.

“He is back at his best. We have monitored his training with his club and he is in good form. He will lead Japan’s challenge, ” said Joo-bong.

Momota played as second singles when Japan won the Thomas Cup for the first time in New Delhi in 2014 by defeating Malaysia 3-2 in the final.

In 2016 at Kunshan, Japan did not have Momota’s services and crashed out 2-3 to Denmark in the quarter-finals.

Two years ago in Bangkok, Japan, led by Momota at first singles, lost to China 1-3 in the final. Momota contributed the sole point after defeating Chen Long.

While Japan are getting their preparations back on track, China may have to skip this year’s Finals if they fail to get a government exemption to travel.

China have cancelled all sports events and have closed their border.

China may not be the only team to miss the Finals. It is learnt that South Korea and Australia are also facing the same predicament and are waiting for their governments’ nod.

The world body and hosts Denmark however, are bent on moving forward with the Finals and have made every arrangement to ensure the safety of the players while ensuring a successful Finals.

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