Japanese badminton star Kento Momota asked people to pray and support the athletes as the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics officially kicked off on Friday, still under the cloud of coronavirus.
“We were supposed to welcome people from all over the world, and we would have liked them to learn good things about Japanese culture.... I understand that we all have mixed feelings about this one,” Momota wrote in a sentimental note on social media.
He spoke about the challenges of hosting the Games amid the fear and uncertainty of Covid-19, with fans not allowed to watch. But he added that he appreciates the support because that’s what keeps him moving.
“I also have much appreciation for the people in Fukushima who give me a place to play badminton while they have been coping with the disaster,” he wrote.
The world No 1 is among the host country’s brightest medal hopes at the Tokyo Games, and the delayed event will be a crucial for him as he continues his comeback after fracturing his eye socket in a January 2020 accident.
He suffered double vision and needed surgery on a bone near his eye that delayed his comeback, leaving him fearing his career was over. But the 26-year-old has since made a full recovery, and he heads into his first-ever Olympics as the favourite to win the gold medal.
This will be his Olympic debut as he was banned from the Rio Games for gambling.
Here’s the full text of his note:
Tokyo Olympics 2021 will begin soon.
We were supposed to welcome people from all over the world, and we would have liked them to learn good things about Japanese cultures and enjoy, “Omotenashi”, (the Japanese way of hospitality).
However, I can hardly imagine how this Olympics would go under the coronavirus pandemic.
I understand that we all have mixed feelings about this one.
I couldn’t get this point without all my supporters includes my family and friends. I also have much appreciation for the people in Fukushima who give me a place to play badminton while they have been coping with the disaster.
That is why I was looking forward to playing badminton at this Olympics. I also wished for fans to see a game closer because fans cheer me up when I play games.
Even if people would not be at the game, I always appreciate what the supporters have given me, and I move forward because I’d like to live up to all my supporter’s expectations.
All I wish is people pray for all the athletes in this Olympics. In any circumstances, your supports will make us move.
Best wishes, KENTO MOMOTA