Badminton is the world’s fastest racquet sport.
Derived from battledore and shuttlecock, or jeu de volant, the sport traces its origins to ancient Greece 2,000 years ago. It spread via Indo-Greek kingdoms to India, and then farther east to China. The game was played with small racquets–called battledores—made of gut stretched across wooden frames and shuttlecocks [known more informally as the “birdie”], which was made of cork trimmed with feathers. The modern version of badminton was developed in the mid-19th Century among the British, who popularized the game at the Badminton House, a large country estate in Badminton, Gloucestershire, England and principal seat of the Dukes of Beaufort. The sport is governed internationally by the Badminton World Federation–formed in 1934 by England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Netherlands and New Zealand. India joined in 1936. European play came to be led by Denmark but badminton is now dominated by China.
Often played recreationally—in a backyard or at the beach–badminton is also played competitively. Although it may be played with larger teams, the most common form of the game is singles [one player per side] and doubles [two players per side]. Formal games are played on a rectangular court that is divided in half by the net. A doubles court is 20 feet wide, while a singles court is 17 feet across, and all courts are 44 feet long. The net is 5’1” at the edges and stands five feet off the court in the center. A point is scored by landing the shuttlecock within the opponent’s half of the court. Each side may only strike the shuttlecock once before it passes over the net. Play ends once the shuttlecock has struck the floor, lands outside the lines of play, or if a fault is called by the umpire, service judge or–in their absence–the opposing side. Play begins with one side serving to the other. The server and receiver stand in diagonally opposite service courts. A serve must be hit below the waist with the racquet shaft pointing downwards. The serve must pass over a short service line on the opponent’s court or it will count as a fault and the serving team loses their turn. Unlike tennis, players stand inside their service courts and the object ball [shuttlecock] is not allowed to bounce. Games are played to 21, with players scoring a point whenever they win a rally regardless of whether or not they served. Games must be won by two points until the score gets to 29-all, at which time the next point—called a Golden Point—wins. A match is the best of three games.
Badminton differs from tennis in several ways. Tennis courts are twice the length and width of their badminton counterparts. Tennis allows two service chances but badminton only provides one. Tennis racquets are four times heavier than those in badminton, and badminton is much faster. The fastest recorded tennis stroke is 163.4 miles per hour, by Samuel Groth. The fastest documented badminton stroke by Fu Haifeng, who smashed one at 206 mph. “The sport demands superb fitness,” said Anne Edwards, a varsity badminton player at Downers Grove North High School outside Chicago, “Players must have aerobic stamina, agility, strength and speed.” Badminton became an Olympic sport in 1992 with five events; Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. At the highest levels of play, athletes possess exquisite racquet skills and mental focus. “I try to assess my opponent’s weaknesses and immediately try to break her will by exploiting them,” confesses Edwards.
Lin Dan is a Chinese legend and the greatest badminton player of all time. Born in Longyan, Fujian, October 14, 1983, Dan began playing badminton at five. At 18, he joined China’s national team and by 28 had become the first and only player to complete the Super Grand Slam, which includes all nine major international titles. The Super Grand Slam is comprised of the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters Finals, All-England Open, Asian Games and Asian Championships. Following an accomplished juniors career, in which he dominated in both the singles and team events, “Super Dan” has rewritten the record books as a professional. In 15 years of international competition, he has captured 34 gold, seven silver and six bronze medals. Dan is a two-time winner of the Eddie Choong Player of the Year Award and was voted “Best Male Athlete” of 2010 in CCTV Sports Personality of the Year balloting. Mr. Dan is the only badminton player in history to win back-to-back Olympic singles titles and will be competing for an unprecedented “hat trick” at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. The 5’10”, 150 pound lefthander has won over 60 career titles, with over 550 singles victories and fewer than 80 losses as a professional.
On this date in 2012, eight female badminton players were disqualified from the London Olympic tournament for trying to lose matches so they could face easier opponents in future matches. The players were from China, South Korea, and Indonesia. All four pairs of players were charged with not doing their best to win a match and demeaning the sport. It remains the biggest scandal in Olympic badminton history.