# Japanese ace was suspended after being linked to betting in illegal casino in Japan
Six finals and six titles, – although achieved in the lower-tier Badminton World Federation tournaments – in the bag speak of Kento Momota’s badminton prowess.
The 23-year-old Japanese, who paid a heavy price for his off-court follies by gambling at illegal casinos in Japan with his teammate Kenichi Tago, was slapped with a suspension that saw him miss last year’s Rio Olympics.
The Japanese Badminton body did not hesitate hesitate to put him in cold storage although he has the country’s hope of winning a medal in the men’s singles.
Hours after giving an interview to Media247 during last year’s Malaysia Open at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil on April 6, Momota, together with Tago, was summoned to return home immediately to answer charges of indiscipline after news of his gambling in illegal casino emerged.
For the record Tago, who finished runners-up to Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in the 2010 All England Championships, played in the 2012 London Olympics.
Illegal casinos are linked to “organised crime” in Japan. Momota landed in hot soup when he was reported by a casino staff for gambling “frequently” during his visits. He reportedly gambled away 0.5 million yen in six visits.
Tago gambled away 10 million yen after 60 visits to various casinos.
The former world junior champion who won the title in 2012, had a week earlier the India Open Superseries in New Delhi and was one of the favourites for the Malaysia Open title.
Together with China’s Chen Long and Lin Dan and Malaysia’s Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Momota was one of contenders for the men’s singles gold at the Rio Olympics. For the record Chen Long defeated Chong Wei for the gold in Rio.
Having to start from the lower ranks in his comeback to competitive badminton after the suspension Momota is riding on a wave of success and won his first Grand Prix Gold at the Macau Open which ended on Sunday.
In the final the unseeded Japanese steamrolled Indonesia’s 14th seed Ihsan Maulana Mustofa 21-16, 21-10 in 41 minutes.
Among the other titles he has won this year include the Czech Open, the Belgian International Series, the Dutch Open after finishing runners-up in the Canada Open.
He is also the first Japanese player to win a Superseries title when he won the Singapore Open in 2015. This was followed by winning the Indonesia Open and he also walked away with the season-ending BWF World Superseries Finals in Dubai in 2015.
Momota is also in the history books as the first Japanese player to win a medal in the World Championships. He beat China’s Chen Long 21-9, 21-15 for the bronze medal in Jakarta in 2015. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH