Japanese badminton has been dealt with a heavy blow as two of their top contenders, Kento Momota and Kenichi Tago have been found guilty of gambling, which is largely illegal in Japan.
The punishment would mean that both the players have been removed from the Japanese contingent for the 2016 Rio Olympics by the Nippon Badminton Association. Both players have admitted to engaging in gambling which is illegal in Japan and the punishments could be as severe as a 5-year imprisonment. The Nippon Badminton Association immediately called for an emergency meeting and they have decided to suspend Momota indefinitely, while Tago received a tougher punishment, his name being deregistered indefinitely.
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“I went to a casino for the first time in a country where it’s legal, and the thrill of it gradually took over my senses,” Momota said to the press on Monday.
The 21-year old Kento Momota, ranked World No. 2, has been rising through the ranks quickly and was considered one of the top contenders for the Olympic gold medal in Men’s Singles. The 26-year old Kenichi Tago is a 6-time Japanese national champion.
Momota has been breaking plenty of records and was seen as the man set to take Japanese badminton to the next level. He became the first Japanese man to win any medal in the Men’s Singles category at the World Championships (Bronze, 2015). He is also currently the youngest Super series champion in the Men’s Singles category, a record he beat when he won the 2015 Singapore Open. He also won the BWF Super Series Masters Final last year.
Momota admitted to having gambled at a casino 6 times during the period between October 2014 and January 2015. He also said that he lost a total of ¥500,000 ($4,600 approx). His teammate Kenichi Tago admitted to have been gambling for an even longer period, having lost a lot more ($100,000).
The whole incident puts a gloomy face on Japan’s Olympic hopes and with the next edition being held in Tokyo in 2020, the troubles become multiplied. Momota’s suspension could be revoked before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the Japanese badminton head Kinji Zeniya said that the players need to understand the gravity of their actions.
Olympic medal hope Kento Momota has been kicked off Japan’s badminton team for the Games this summer pic.twitter.com/o1f32qSG3n
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“It is important to take a resolute stance against players guilty of illegal acts,” Zeniya told the press.
“The possibility (of competing at the Tokyo Olympics) is not zero. We want them to fully understand the seriousness of the situation.”
Momota apparently went into gambling through the invitation by his fellow punishee Tago. Momota has appeared in front of his fans to give out a proper apology, but this will definitely end up being a black mark in what promises to be a great career for the youngster.