H I S T O R Y

Badminton traces its beginnings to a game played thousands of years ago in Asia. The modern form of the sport was refined in Britain, but it is popular in countries all over the world.

A  Beginnings

Badminton evolved from a Chinese game of the 5th century bc called ti jian zi that involved kicking the shuttle. A later version of the sport was played in ancient Greece and India with rackets rather than with feet. A similar game called shuttlecock, or jeu de volant, appeared in Europe during the 1600s.

British army officers brought a revised version of the game back to Britain from India in the mid-19th century. In 1873 the duke of Beaufort introduced the game to royalty at his country estate, Badminton House, and the sport became known as badminton. Four years later the Bath Badminton Club was founded. The version played by its members forms the basis for today’s game.

B  Growth in Popularity

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Badminton in Indonesia

When badminton was introduced to Indonesia by European colonists, the sport gained immense popularity, and by the 1950s Indonesians began to dominate international competitions. Badminton became an official Olympic sport in 1992, and the Indonesian badminton team captured the country’s first gold medals.

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Badminton soon spread beyond Britain to the rest of Europe and to countries throughout the world. It became especially popular in Asia and North America. The only major change through the years was in playing equipment, as lightweight rackets made of aluminum, boron, graphite, and titanium gradually replaced wooden models.

During and after World War II (1939-1945), American badminton players came to prominence in international play. In the 1940s David Freeman was recognized as the world’s best player. He won seven United States singles titles (1939-1942, 1947, 1948, 1953) and the All-England singles title (1949). He remained unbeaten in singles competition from the age of 19 until he retired at age 33. American-born player Judy Devlin Hashman dominated the women’s game during the 1950s and 1960s; she became a naturalized citizen of Britain in 1970. England’s Gillian Gilks dominated women’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles play during the early 1970s.

 Badminton’s first world championships were held in 1977. Denmark’s Flemming Delfs and Lene Koppen won the men’s and women’s singles titles, respectively. Since then, East Asian nations—primarily China and Indonesia—have dominated professional badminton. In both countries, badminton is as popular as basketball is in the United States or soccer is in Britain. Spectators at matches typically sing, chant, and cheer for their favorite players or teams.

 C  Recent Developments

 Individuals from China and Indonesia have won numerous world championship titles. Men’s singles world champions include Rudy Hartono (1980) of Indonesia and Yang Yang (1987, 1989), Zhao Jianhua (1991), and Sun Jun (1999) of China. Women’s world champions include Indonesia’s Susi Susanti (1993) and China’s Ye Zhaoying (1995, 1997).

 The most noted doubles player is South Korean men’s star Park Joo Bong, who won an Olympic gold medal in men’s doubles in 1992 and a silver medal in mixed doubles in 1996.

 Denmark is also a badminton powerhouse, with players such as 1996 men’s Olympic gold medalist Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen, 1997 men’s world champion Peter Rasmussen, and 1999 women’s world champion Camilla Martin.