Tokyo Olympics: Badminton

  • 01/01/2021

With a strong Asian influence, badminton was introduced to the Olympics at Barcelona 1992 and retained for every Games since.

At Tokyo, medals will be contested for men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles.

China has dominated Olympic competition, winning 18 of 34 gold medals contested over the past 29 years, including a sweep of events at London 2012. 

But current world rankings see the powerhouse leading on mixed doubles, with Japan (men's singles, women's doubles) and Chinese Taipei (women's singles) heading the other categories.   

New Zealand has contested four previous Olympic tournaments and will have one representative at Tokyo - three-time Oceania champion Abhinav Manota in men's singles.

NZ Team

Abhinav Manota - men's singles

Five to Watch

Kento Momota (Japan)

All eyes will be on the men's singles world No.1, who has overcome personal and professional problems on the way to the Tokyo Olympics, including contracting COVID-19.

Months before Rio in 2016, Momota was embroiled in an illegal gambling scandal and banned by the Nippon Badminton Association. The then-world No.2 was removed from the league tables and by the time Momota returned to the court in 2017, he was ranked 282th and had to claw his way back with a 39-match unbeaten streak.

Momota's Olympic dreams were again threatened in early 2020, when he was involved in a fatal car accident that left him with damaged eyesight and other injuries. The pandemic gave him time to recover and he made his comeback at the All-England Open in March, raising Japanese hopes that he can challenge for Olympic gold.

Tai Tzu Ying (Taiwan)

Women's singles world No.1 Tai Tzu Ying has never won an Olympic medal and this could be her last chance, because although she is only 26 years old, Tai has hinted that she will retire after the Tokyo Games.

The three-time All England Open champion has been neck-and-neck for years with world No.2 Chen Yufei of China and Rio gold medallist Carolina Marin of Spain. Marin has been ruled out of the Games by injury, increasing Tai's chances of winning a medal with her unpredictable style of play.

Chen Yufei (China)

Making her Olympic debut, the world No.2 in women's singles has beaten top-ranked Tai Tzu Ying twice, but has lost to her on several occasions.

Chen has not played internationally since the 2020 All England Open and there are concerns that nerves may get the better of her once again.

Chen Yufei competes at China championships
Chen Yufei competes at China championships. Photo credit: Getty

"I have this question mark when it comes to Chen Yufei," says Denmark's Morten Frost, a former coach and seven-time world champion in the 1980s.

"She's going to be extremely interesting, but I say months of no tournament practice for her can be a tricky one."

Dechapol Puavaranukroh & Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Thailand)

The mixed doubles gold medal has been hard to hold onto in recent years, with a different country winning each time, since South Korea dethroned China at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Dechapol and Sapsiree are ranked second in the world and have won their last three tournaments, all this year.

Anders Antonsen (Denmark)

Antonsen, the world No.3 in men's singles, will compete at the Olympics for the first time, but has beaten world No.1 Kento Momota and No.2 Viktor Axelsen.

"I think he's a solid player - he's come in very well in the last couple tournaments," says USA Para-Badminton director Steve Kearney. "I wouldn't say a favourite, but he's a solid player that's going to definitely get to the quarters and compete in the finals."