It was only a few weeks ago Kento Momota was not sure if he would ever return to a badminton court.
In January, the 25-year-old was involved in a road crash en route to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport a day after winning the PERODUA Malaysia Masters 2020.
It landed him in hospital with facial injuries – including skin lacerations and bone fractures – and after returning to Japan, left him requiring surgery to repair a fractured eye socket.
But the Japanese men’s singles star, back training since 29 February, is now refreshed and ready to resume his hunt for the Tokyo 2020 gold medal again.
“Thanks to the words of encouragement (from family, friends and supporters), I want to aim for gold medal,” he told reporters on Friday in his first press conference since the accident.
“I have never been away from badminton for so long. I am very much enjoying hitting shuttlecocks. I’m having very fulfilling practices again.
“I feel I am regaining the sharpness of my body and movements.”
Momota had targeted returning at the YONEX All England Open 2020 but realised that was not possible when he had double vision upon resuming training in early February.
Now the world No.1 is keen to ensure he only makes his competitive return when he feels 100 per cent.
“The issue I have to tackle is whenever I’m on court, I want to get into the action. I have to make sure I take it easy,” he said.
“If I rush and overdo it, I risk injury. I want to have a little more margin for error. I want to come back stronger than ever. I want to work harder than ever.”
Momota, however, revealed he feared for his career right after the mishap in Malaysia.
“At the time I thought of giving it all up,” admitted the two-time world champion.
“After my accident I couldn’t move at all, and I was striving to recover my fitness. Then the eye issue occurred and I was grappling with whether to have surgery or not.
“There were times when my spirit was almost broken.”
Despite being out of action for eight weeks now, Momota’s place at the top of the rankings had remained intact.
And that means he would still be the favourite to win the elusive first men’s singles gold medal for Japan at his home Games – his maiden Olympic appearance – in August.