Kuala Lumpur: Badminton world number one Kento Momota was injured in a pre-dawn vehicle collision in Malaysia on Monday, just hours after he secured his first victory of the season at the Malaysia Masters.
Police said the Japanese star, 25, suffered a broken nose and cuts to his face when the van carrying him to the city's airport crashed early in the morning, in a blow to his preparations for this year's Tokyo Olympics.
The driver was killed at the scene after the vehicle collided with a slow-moving lorry on a highway. An assistant coach, physiotherapist, and badminton official also suffered minor injuries.
The fire and rescue department said it was still working to extricate the driver's body from the wreckage. Momota and the other players suffered light injuries, the department said, and had been sent to Putrajaya Hospital for treatment.
The accident happened around 4:40 am (2040 GMT Sunday), and 10 firefighters rushed to the scene, senior fire and rescue department official Norazam Khamis told AFP.
The injured "were able to walk out of the van by themselves with some scratches", he added. Pictures showed the front of the van crashed against a lorry but the back section appeared intact.
"It's truly tragic, especially involving a badminton icon like Momota," Malaysian sports minister Syed Saddiq told reporters, after visiting the injured in hospital south of the capital.
But he added those hurt were "recovering well, (and) all four are also in stable condition".
The others hurt suffered facial, leg, hand and head injuries, according to the police.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia said in a statement they were "saddened" by the crash.
On Sunday, Momota defeated former world champion Viktor Axelsen to win the Malaysia Masters, the first tournament of the BWF 2020 World Tour season.
Momota enjoyed a stellar 2019, winning a record 11 titles including the World Championships, Asia Championships and All England Open, a turnaround for a player who had been banned for gambling in 2016.
(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)