Women’s doubles world No. 1 Sayaka Hirota was spotted stepping on the court yesterday in her first Olympics match with heavy knee braces on her right knee. It was later revealed that Hirota had suffered an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury during a training camp in June.

There have been no reports or news on her knee injury before yesterday and therefore came as a surprise to many onlookers.

They won their match against their British opponents Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith in two straight games 21-13, 21-14.

After the match, Hirota was quoted as saying by Badminton Spirit, “At that time, I thought I might not be able to return to this stage, but I did not give up, I continued to carry out rehabilitation training and kept believing that I will definitely be able to come back.

“With the support of the doctors, team staff and teammates, I finally recovered and returned to the stadium. I have recovered about 70-80% now. I will continue to compete with my partner (Yuki) Fukushima (at Tokyo 2020).”

Her opponent Chloe Birch commented after the match that Hirota wasn’t moving on the court very well like she did in the past and that they focused their attacks on Hirota, but the world number ones were tactically good enough to protect Hirota’s weakness.

Hirota and Fukushima will be playing their next group match today against Malaysian opponents, Lee Meng Yean and Chow Mei Kuan.