Sat, 25 Sep 2021

TOKYO, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Men's singles world No. 1 shuttler Kento Momota was unexpectedly knocked out by South Korea's world No. 38 Heo Kwang-hee 2-0 in group competition of the Tokyo Olympics here on Wednesday.

In one of the biggest upsets of the day, the 26-year-old Olympic debutant Heo shocked all by defeating the event's top seed Momota from host Japan 21-15, 21-19.

No one could expect that Momota, a rising star and one of the powerful favorites to claim gold on home soil, was ousted by the South Korean dark horse and had to leave the Olympic arena before reaching the last 16.

Before his first-ever journey to Tokyo Olympics, Momota suffered from several setbacks. He missed the 2016 Rio Games after receiving a one-year ban by the Nippon Badminton Association for gambling at an illegal casino in Tokyo.

In a double dose of misfortune, he was involved in a car crash in early 2020 in which he suffered facial injuries. He had surgery for an eye socket fracture and gradually recovered.

"I had so much support from everyone and a lot of people expected me to win, but I didn't make it tonight. I am very sorry for them," Momota said after Wednesday's loss.

"In the first game I felt OK. But after the opponent reached 11, I couldn't recover myself and couldn't motivate myself after that," he said. "I felt that I was really weak tonight."

"My condition was fine. I was just not good enough tonight," he said, denying that he has any injury currently.

Heo said that he was much lower than Momota in world rankings, so he thought that with nothing to lose he should give it a shot and fight for a win. "So I felt less nervous and the result turned out to be good."

"I am an aggressive player, so I did a lot of training aimed at opponents trying to contain my style of play. This sort of training helps me make fewer mistakes on the court," Heo noted.

"I didn't think I was bound to lose (in the match against Momota)," he said, noting that he believed he had chances to take this match.

On the performance of Momota, he said that while he was aggressive, Momota was also strong in defense. "But it seemed that he didn't do very well in defense today."

Heo, sitting first place in group A, will advance directly to the quarterfinals.

"I hope I can go through to the finals, but I still need to fight one match after another and learn from the process," he said.

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