World badminton champ Momota gets Fukushima sports prize

Kento Momota received the Fukushima-Minpo Sports Award in a ceremony at a Tokyo hotel on Oct. 4 for grabbing Japan’s first men’s singles crown in badminton’s world championships held this summer in China. The 24-year-old star player, belonging to Nippon Telegraph & Telephone East Corp. (NTT East) and a graduate of Tomioka High School in Tomioka town, Fukushima Prefecture, won the title in the TOTAL BWF World Championships held in Nanjing from July 30 to Aug. 5. The award ceremony took place at Hyatt Regency Tokyo in the capital’s Shinjuku district. Fukushina-Minpo Co. President Masayuki Takahashi presented Momota with a certificate of commendation, prize money and a relief sculpture titled “Mori-no-Yosei (woodland fairy),” produced by Kentaro Hashimoto (an honorary citizen of Nihonmatsu city, Fukushima Prefecture), former head of the Nitten fine arts academy and recipient of the prestigious Person of Cultural Merit award. Momota “continued showing spectacular performances in international tournaments to become the No. 1 player” in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings, Takahashi said. “His amazing achievements have encouraged the people of our prefecture.” Congratulatory speeches were also delivered by Yoshio Susa, president of the Fukushima Amateur Sports Association, Kunio Yoshida, president of the Fukushima Badminton Association, and Yuji Hashimoto, board chairman of the badminton body. Momota pledged further efforts so that he “can grow not only as a player but also as an individual person.” His boss Takahiro Suka, coach of the NTT East badminton club and its men’s team, expressed gratitude for support by prefectural people and other parties concerned. Also representing NTT East at the ceremony were Yasutaka Kamezaki , head of the labor and welfare division (chief of the sports promotion office), and Keisuke Yamaguchi, head of the Fukushima Branch. Momota’s victory in the Nanjing tournament represented the first men’s gold medal for Japan in both Olympic competitions and world championships, and encouraged prefectural people seeking reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. He also contributed to developing an atmosphere in the prefecture conducive to hosting events of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The Fukushima-Minpo Sports Award covers athletes, organizations and instructors giving impressive performances in major domestic and overseas competitions. Past recipients are cyclist Toshiaki Fushimi (a graduate of Shirakawa Jitsugyo High School in Shirakawa city, Fukushima Prefecture), who earned the silver as a member of the Japanese national cycling squad in the men’s track team sprint event at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and pilot Yoshihide Muroya (a resident of Fukushima city), who won the third race in the 2016 season of the “Red Bull Air Race World Championship” of lightweight planes, as the first Japanese to clinch race victory. Momota is the third to win the award. (Translated by Kyodo News)