KUALA LUMPUR: Badminton world number one Kento Momota was released from a hospital in Malaysia on Wednesday (Jan 15) and boarded a plane back to Japan, two days after he was treated for injuries in a car crash in which his driver was killed.
The 25-year-old Japanese faces two months out to recuperate from his injuries, after the vehicle carrying him to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) crashed in the early hours of Monday.
A Reuters photographer saw Momota clearing security checks at KLIA on Wednesday, his face covered in a white mask.
"Momota has been discharged from hospital. He is heading back to Japan this morning," Norza Zakaria, president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia told AFP.
Momota left on a Malaysian Airlines flight to Tokyo's Narita airport at 9.40am.
"Momota is on flight MH70. The plane has taken off," Norza confirmed.
The world's top-ranked men's singles player was among four passengers in a van travelling to the airport on Monday when it crashed into the back of a 30-tonne truck, injuring them and killing the driver of the van.
The accident occurred just hours after he began his 2020 season in style on Sunday with victory over Denmark's Viktor Axelsen in Kuala Lumpur. Momota had been in Putrajaya public hospital outside the capital Kuala Lumpur since Monday.
The other passengers injured were assistant coach Yu Hirayama, 35, physiotherapist Morimoto Akifumi, 42, and Hawkeye system operator William Thomas, 30.
Hirayama sustained facial injuries and injured her right leg, while Arkifumi's hand was broken and Thomas suffered leg and head injuries.
Momota, as well as two of the other passengers who were injured, were received by Norza when they arrived at the airport in three separate vehicles at about 8.10am.
The three, who were wearing masks, were ferried on a buggy under tight security in the departure hall of the airport.
They were then taken to the VVIP room to wait for their flight.
Momota is expected to be one of Japan's biggest hopes for gold at this year's Tokyo Olympics, and the crash is seen as a blow to his preparations.
Momota will now aim to return to action at the All England Championships on Mar 11, the secretary-general of Japan's Badminton Association Kinji Zeniya told AFP on Tuesday.
Momota, who won a record 11 titles last year had "extraordinary enthusiasm towards the Olympics" this year in Tokyo, added Zeniya, but urged the gold medal favourite to take time to recuperate fully.
"I hope he will do his best without pushing and rushing himself too hard and without being impatient," said Zeniya.
The driver was killed at the scene while Momota received cuts to his face and bruising all over his body, Zeniya said, denying previous reports that he had broken his nose and chin.
Momota, currently the best player on the planet, enjoyed unrivalled success in 2019, with his title haul including the World Championship, Asia Championship and All England Championship - a dramatic turnaround for a player who had been banned for gambling in 2016.