Momota’s COVID-19 positive forces Japan out of Thai events

BANGKOK (AP) — Top-ranked Kento Momota’s positive test for COVID-19 at Narita Airport forced Japan to withdraw its players from upcoming international badminton events in Thailand.

The two-time singles world champion was scheduled to compete in two Thailand Open series events from Jan. 12-17 and Jan. 19-24 and the $1.5-million World Tour Finals from Jan. 27-31 in Nonthaburi.

But Badminton Association of Thailand President Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul said the 26-year-old Momota tested positive after practicing with his teammates in Tokyo on Saturday, prompting the entire team to cancel their trip to Bangkok.

“On behalf of the organizers, I deeply appreciate the decision of the Japanese team to have to withdraw from the competition over health concerns for other participants,” Patama said. “I wish all members of the Japanese team strong health and safety and hope to see them back on courts the soon.”

The absence of the Japanese team is a further setback for the tournaments after China announced its withdrawal last week.

The Badminton World Federation said the Thailand Open series and the World Tour Finals, already delayed by the pandemic, will proceed as planned.

The three BWF events in Thailand will be organized under bubble quarantine policy. Players are required to remain in restricted areas throughout their stay in Thailand.

Momota won the All-Japan Championships title in December in his return to competition following injuries he sustained in an auto accident after a tournament in Malaysia last January.

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