The names were familiar, but perhaps their stories were not, as Japan’s Kento Momota and Spain’s Carolina Marin made history by winning at the BWF World Championships in Nanjing (CHN).
Momota rose to the highest level in the badminton world with a 21-11, 21-13 victory over China’s Yuqi Shi, completing an unlikely comeback after a 15-month sabbatical from competitive badminton.
“There was a time when I was away and I received a lot of support,” he said. “Now I’m stronger than in the past. I thank all those who supported me earlier. I want to be like Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan who have had long careers. I want to enjoy my game and entertain the audience. I didn’t have expectations for the final, I played with a free mind and trusted my footwork and defense to counter his attack.”
Momota did more than author a legendary return to the sport. He won his 33rd match in his 36 played in 2018 and became the first-ever Japanese player to win the men’s world Singles title.
Marin similarly had ups and downs, but in Nanjing, she became the first women’s player to win three world titles, defeating India’s V. Sindhu Pursarla in the final, 21-19, 21-10.
“I have many emotions right now,” said Marin afterwards, who also won in 2014 and 2015. “I have been preparing for this moment for a long time. It’s been really special to be the first player to win three World Championships. Of course, without my team it would have been impossible. I have to say thanks to all of them. This is really special because I, Carolina Marin, came back and I will fight for my next target.
“I think the match against Saina was one of my best of my career. But it’s not about how I play; it’s about how I prepared and how I felt on court against her; about how I showed I wanted to beat her. Today against Sindhu, I just believed in myself. I told myself when she was leading that I have to fight, I have to show her that she cannot beat me today. In the second game I was really strong from the beginning. Sometimes it’s difficult for a player. It’s impossible to be at the top every time. Sometimes a player has to go down and come back again. I feel really strong now, and really confident that I can win again.”
In the Doubles events, China won the men’s Doubles with Junhui Li and Yuchen Liu and the Mixed Doubles gold with Siwei Zheng and Yaqiong Huang; Japan won the women’s Doubles for the first time since 1977 (!) with Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara – in their first Worlds – winning a thriller against heir favored countrywomen, Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, 19-21, 21-19, 22-20.
China led the medal table with eight and two wins; Japan had six medals and also claimed two golds. No other country had more than one medal.
A total of 357 players from 48 nations competed in Nanjing. Summaries:
BWF World Championships
Nanjing (CHN) ~ 30 July-5 August 2018.
(Full results here)
Men’s Singles: 1. Kento Momota (JPN); 2. Yuqi Shi (CHN); 3. Long Chen (CHN) and Daren Liew (MAS). Semis: Shi d. Chen, 21-11, 21-17; Momota d. Liew, 21-16, 21-5. Final: Momota d. Shi, 21-11, 21-13.
Men’s Doubles: 1. Junhui Li/Yuchen Liu (CHN); 2. Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda (JPN); 3. Hung Ling Chen/Chi-Lin Wang (TPE) and Cheng Liu/Nan Zhang (CHN). Semis: Kamura/Sonoda d. Chen/Wang, 21-17, 21-10; Li/Liu d. Liu/Zhang, 21-15, 21-13. Final: Li/Liu d. Kamura/Sonoda, 21-12, 21-19.
Women’s Singles: 1. Carolina Marin (ESP); 2. V. Sindhu Pusarla (IND); 3. Bingjiao He (CHN) and Akane Yamaguchi (JPN). Semis: Marin d. He, 13-21, 21-16, 21-13; Pursarla d. Yamaguchi, 21-16, 24-22. Final: Marin d. Pursarla, 21-19, 21-10.
Women’s Doubles: 1. Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara (JPN); 2. Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota (JPN); 3. Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto (JPN) and Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu (INA). Semis: Matsumoto/Nagahara d. Polii/Rahayu, 21-12, 23-21; Fukushima/Hirota d. Tanaka/Yonemoto, 21-19, 21-15. Final: Matsumoto/Nagahara d. Fukushima/Hirota, 19-21, 21-19, 22-20.
Mixed Doubles: 1. Siwei Zheng/Yaqiong Huang (CHN); 2. Yilyu Wang/Dongping Huang (CHN); 3. Chun Man Tang/Ying Suet Tse (HKG) and Nan Zhang/Yinhui Li (CHN). Semis: Zheng/Huang d. Zhang/Li, 19-21, 21-12, 21-10; Wang/Huang d. Tang/Tse, 21-16, 21-10. Final: Zheng/Huang d. Wang/Huang, 21-17, 21-19.