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Top 5 female badminton singles players in Olympic History

Enjoy this blog in the Olympics series where we take a look back at the top 5 female singles Badminton players in Olympic History. Badminton made its debut as a demonstration sport at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Pallavi Chanana
Last updated: 13.03.2024
Top 5 female badminton singles players in Olympic History | Sports Social Blog

Badminton made its debut as a demonstration sport at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. It was not until the 1992 Games in Barcelona that it was officially included in the Olympic program, with men’s and women’s singles and doubles events. The mixed doubles event made its debut in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Since then, the number of events has remained unchanged.

Although the creation of modern badminton is attributed to England, it is Asia that now dominates this sport. Between 1992 and 2008, Asian countries won 69 of the 76 medals available in the Olympic competition! The dominant countries are China, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea, followed by Great Britain and Denmark.

Top 5 female singles Badminton players in Olympics History

5. Li Xuerui (CHN) - Gold Medal London 2012

4. Carolina Marin (ESP) - Gold Medal Rio 2016

3. Susi Susanti (INA) - Gold Medal Barcelona 1992, Silver Model Atlanta 1996

2. Bang Soo-Hyun (KOR) - Gold Medal Atlanta 1996, Silver Medal Barcelona 1992

1. Zhang Ning (CHN) - Gold Medal Athens 2004, Gold Medal Beijing 2008

1. Li Xuerui

Li Xuerui is a retired Chinese professional badminton player, she is one of the most successful players of her time. She was a gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics in the women's singles event and was the silver medalist in the 2013 and 2014 World Championships. Li Xuerui had won fourteen Superseries titles, confirmed her name as China's second most successful player after Wang Yihan. She reached a career-high of no. 1 in the women's singles for 124 weeks. Li graduated with a BA from Huaqiao University.

2016 Summer Olympics: heartbreak and injury issues

At the 2016 Summer Olympics women's singles semi-finals, Li Xuerui was defeated by world No. 1 Carolina Marín when she suffered injuries to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and lateral meniscus. This forced her to withdraw from the bronze medal match against Nozomi Okuhara.

2018: Return to professional badminton

Li made her return to professional badminton at the 2017 National Games of China, where she played women's doubles but lost at the group stage. The reason why she had played doubles instead of singles was that she was not yet fully recovered. In 2018, she made her return to international women's singles after a hiatus of 600 days at the 2018 Lingshui China Masters, which she won. 

Career in 2019

In 2019, she played 25 times with 11 wins and 14 losses, finished as the runner-up at the New Zealand Open, losing to South Korean youngster An Se-young with a score of 19–21, 15–21, then made to the quarter-final at the All England Open, stopped by the 2017 World Champion from Japan Nozomi Okuhara with a score of 17–21, 14–21. On 17 October 2019, Li announced her retirement from the international tournament.

2. Carolina Marín

Carolina María Marín Martín is a Spanish professional badminton player. She is the reigning Olympic Champion, three-time World Champion, four-time European Champion and the former World's No. 1 in BWF rankings for the women's singles discipline, holding the World No. 1 title for a record number of 66 weeks. Widely regarded as one of the greatest female athletes in the badminton circuit, she holds the distinction of having won a medal in almost every BWF tournament, along with the consecutive golds at the Olympics, the World Championships and the European Championships. She has become the World Champion in women's singles three times, winning in 2014, 2015 and 2018. She has also consecutively won the BWF European Championships title for 4 times in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. She won her first Olympics gold medal in women's singles at the 2016 Rio Olympics.In 2018, she won the BWF World Championships for the third time, thereby becoming the first-ever female badminton athlete to have achieved this feat. 

In June 2017, she was appointed as the Brand ambassador of Meliá Hotels International. She was also appointed the brand ambassador of football major LaLiga for its promotion in other countries.

Career in 2019

Marín began her 2019 season with a runner-up effort at the Malaysia Masters, where she lost to Ratchanok Intanon in straight sets. On 27 January, Marín suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during the Indonesia Masters final against Saina Nehwal, when she was 10-3 ahead in the first set. Carolina Marin subsequently retired from the match and underwent the ACL reconstruction surgery as soon as she was flown back to Madrid the same day.

After a seven-month break forced by the injury, Marín returned to competition at the 2019 Vietnam Open, where she lost in the first round. However, she was able to bounce back and, on 22 September, she won the China Open, defeating Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying in the finals with a score of 14-21, 21-17, 21-18. This was Marín's first title of the season, which she followed with the semifinals at the Denmark Open, where she was defeated in three tight sets by Nozomi Okuhara.

3. Susi Susanti

Lucia Francisca Susy Susanti is a retired Indonesian badminton player. Relatively small of stature, she combined quick and graceful movement with elegant shotmaking technique and regarded by many as one of the greatest women's singles player of all time. Her name is wrongly spelled as Susi Susanti. She is the first Indonesian Olympic gold medalist and the only Indonesian woman until Lilyana Natsir won gold in 2016.


She won the women's singles gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain and the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States. She retired from the world badminton circuit not long after her marriage to Alan Budikusuma (who had also won a badminton singles gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics) in February 1997. Susanti was the most dominant women's singles player in the first half of the 1990s, winning the All-England in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994, the World Badminton Grand Prix finale five times consecutively from 1990 to 1994 as well as in 1996, and the IBF World Championships in 1993. 

She is the only female player to hold the Olympic, World Championship, and All-England singles titles simultaneously. She won the Japan Open three times and the Indonesian Open five times. She also won numerous Badminton Grand Prix Series events and five Badminton World Cups. She led the Indonesian team to victory over perennial champion China in the 1994 and 1996 Uber Cup (women's world team) competitions. All of this came during a relatively strong period in women's international badminton. Her chief competitors early in her prime years were the Chinese players Tang Jiuhong and Huang Hua, and, later, China's Ye Zhaoying and the Korean Bang Soo-hyun.

Susanti was inducted into the International Badminton Federation (IBF, currently BWF) Hall of Fame in May 2004, and received the Herbert Scheele Trophy in 2002.

4. Bang Soo-Hyun

Bang Soo-Hyun is a former badminton player from South Korea who was one of the world's leading women's singles players of the 1990s. She was a contemporary and rival of Indonesia's Susi Susanti and China's Ye Zhaoying and recorded wins over both in major badminton tournaments. Noted for a style that combined impressive power and movement, she retired from competition after her victory in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, shortly before her 24th birthday. 


Summer Olympics

Barcelona 1992

Bang competed in badminton at the 1992 Summer Olympics in women's singles. She had a bye in the first round, defeated Catrine Bengtsson of Sweden in the second and Hisuko Mizui of Japan in the third. In quarterfinals Bang Soo-hyun edged Sarwendah Kusumawardhani of Indonesia 11-2, 3-11, 12-11 to advance to the semifinals. There, she beat the reigning world champion Tang Jiuhong of China 11-3, 11-2. In the final, she lost to Indonesia's Susi Susanti 11-5, 5-11, 3-11 to finish with the silver medal.

Atlanta 1996

Bang also competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She won the gold medal in women's singles without dropping a game in any match, defeating Susi Susanti in semifinals 11-9, 11-8, and Mia Audina in the final, 11-6, 11-7.

World Championships

She won two medals in the IBF World Championships, in 1993 a silver medal as runner-up to Susanti, and in 1995 a bronze medal.

Other championships

Bang won the quadrennial Asian Games in 1994, and the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships over Ye Zhaoying in 1996, having been a runner-up in close matches in both 1992 and 1993. Her other titles included the Welsh (1989), Hong Kong (1992), Korea (1993, 1994, 1996), Swedish (1993, 1994), and Canadian (1995) Opens. 

5. Zhang Ning

Zhang Ning is a former badminton player from the People's Republic of China. She won the Olympic gold medal twice for women's singles in both 2004 and 2008. She has played badminton on the world scene since the mid-1990s and has been particularly successful since 2002 while in her late twenties and early thirties, relatively late for singles at the highest level, and especially for top players in the Chinese system who are developed very early. She is known for her consistency of shot, deception and constant pressure, dictating the pace of rallies and working her opponents in all four corners of the court. She is the only female player to win consecutive Olympic singles gold medals.

Zhang first represented China in the Uber Cup (women's world team championship) competition in 1994 and last represented it in 2006. Though she was not always chosen to play in each of the biennial editions of this tournament, the span of her Uber Cup service is the longest of any Chinese player. 

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