Kento Momota, the world's top ranked badminton player, resumed his preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by competing in his first tournament for almost a year, following a serious road traffic accident.
Two-time reigning world champion Momota sustained lacerations to his face, bruises to his entire body and was diagnosed with a broken right eye socket, after he was a passenger in a van that crashed just hours after his victory in the Malaysia Masters in January.
The van carrying Momota crashed into a truck, killing the driver and causing non-life-threatening injuries to three other passengers.
Momota's first victory since his long lay-off came when he defeated a high school opponent in the first round of the All Japan Championships in Tokyo, as reported by Kyodo News.
"I was able to return thanks to so many people," Momota said.
"I hope to play with confidence while showing my gratitude for that support on the court."
Momota followed up his first round win by beating Hatano Riku, 19, coming from behind in game one to eventually triumph in straight games and progress to the quarter-finals of the event, where he is the two-time defending champion.
Following his second round win Momota told the Olympic Channel that self-talk was one of his biggest assets during tough moments in matches.
"I talk to myself during matches," said Momota.
"I try to picture myself objectively and that’s how I tell whether I’m nervous or not."
Momota resumed practice in late February but the coronavirus pandemic delayed his return to the court.
He is set to be one of Japan's biggest medal hopes providing the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympics goes ahead as scheduled from July 23 to August 8 2021.
Success on home soil would cap a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Momota who was banned from the sport in April 2016, on the eve of the Rio Olympics, after admitting visiting an illegal casino.
He returned to the tour in July 2017 but was ranked number 282 and had to work his way back to the top in a period that he called "the darkest of my life."