Japan badminton ace Okuhara joins Momota in early exit

by AFP

TOKYO – Japanese badminton ace Nozomi Okuhara (picture) said she hoped her country’s younger generation could learn from her shortcomings, after she joined compatriot Kento Momota in making an early Olympic exit on Friday.

Women’s singles number three seed Okuhara crashed out in the quarter-finals, losing 13-21, 21-13, 21-14 to Chinese number eight seed He Bingjiao.

Men’s top seed Momota didn’t even make it out of the group stage after losing to South Korea’s Heo Kwang-hee in a stunning upset on Wednesday.

A tearful Okuhara, the former world number one and world champion, urged Japan’s next wave of players to be on their guard at the 2024 Paris Games.

“There is no common reason why there have been upsets, but we all have things we need to improve on,” the 26-year-old said.

“I hope the next generation aiming to play in Paris are watching and learning that this can happen. I want the whole of Japanese badminton to look at it carefully and move forward.”

Okuhara said she “came up short” against livewire He, letting the match slip away from her after winning the first game.

“It’s a frustrating result,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of emotions right now — there’s a sense of accomplishment that it’s over, but I have to face up to the fact that this is my real level.”

China’s He will play compatriot Chen Yufei in the semi-finals, after the number one seed beat South Korea’s An Se-young 21-18, 21-19.

“I made some mistakes, but the important thing was to adjust during the match, and that’s what I did,” said Chen.

Chinese players are unbeaten in singles play so far at the Tokyo Games, with Shi Yuqi and defending champion Chen Long still alive in the men’s competition.

“Everyone has been doing really well so far,” said Chen.

“We’ve been trained well, and also since the pandemic, our country has provided us with systematic training.”