Hosts want the lion’s share of titles in badminton

PETALING JAYA: Japan have targeted three out of the five badminton gold medals at stake at the Tokyo Olympics.

According to reports in Japan, Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) secretary general Kinji Zeniya said the national body expect their shuttlers to challenge for podium finishes in every event and despite facing a budget deficit, NBA will pay out bonuses to all medal winners.

“We aim to win medals in all five events and are hopeful that three gold medals can be won,” Ziniya told the media in Japan following a board meeting on Monday.

Although NBA’s coffers have been depleted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Zeniya has assured that all the outstanding performers at the home Olympics will be rewarded handsomely.

World No. 1 Kento Momota will surely have an extra motivation in his bid to become the first Japanese men’s singles Olympics champion as a whopping 10mil yen (RM374,000) awaits him if he succeeds in landing the gold medal.

The silver and bronze medals are worth 5mil yen (RM187,000) and 3mil yen (RM112,000) respectively.

“Even though the association’s income has declined due to the coronavirus, we’re prepared for a budget deficit,” added Ziniya.

With a strong depth in every department, experts are backing the Park Joo-bong-led side to replicate the success of all-conquering Chinese squad that made a clean sweep of all five golds in the 2012 London Games.

The home team boast world’s top five shuttlers in every event. They have world No. 4 Keigo Sonoda-Takeshi Kamura and world No. 5 Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe in men’s doubles; Akane Yamaguchi (No. 3) and Nozomi Okuhara (No. 5) in women’s singles, Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota (No. 1) and Wakana Nagahara-Mayu Matsumoto (No. 2) in women’s doubles; and Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (No. 5) in mixed doubles.

Japan also proved that they are in superb form leading to the Tokyo Games by sweeping four out of five titles at the All-England in March.

Except for the men’s singles which was won by Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia, Japan dominated the remaining through Okuhara, Endo-Watanabe, Matsumoto-Nagahara and Watanabe-Higashino.

It was still a brilliant feat despite the absence of the Chinese, Korean and Indonesian shuttlers.

Badminton made its debut in Barcelona 1992, but Japan’s success in the Olympics did not arrive until two decades later when Mizuki Fujii-Reika Kakiiwa won the country’s first medal by finishing second in the women’s doubles in London 2012.

Four years later in Rio de Janeiro, women’s pair Misaki Matsutomo-Ayaka Takahashi went one better to secure a breakthrough gold medal.

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