Badminton: Asia continues to dominate
Badminton crowned its women’s singles champion, Zhang Ning of China as well as its men’s doubles champions, Kido Markis and Setiawan Hendra of Indonesia, as Asia continued its domination of this relatively young Olympic sport.
Hoyer-Larsen out on his own
Ever since it was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1992, only one gold medal has ended up outside Asia, with Denmark’s Paul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen winning the men’s singles in Atlanta in 1996. The remaining 19 gold medals prior to these Games were shared between just three countries: China, South Korea and Indonesia, whose five Olympic gold medals have all come in badminton.
The first of these was Susi Susanti’s victory in Barcelona in 1992, and just two hours later her fiancé, Allan Budi Kusuma, won the men's title. When Susanti and Kusuma returned to Indonesia the celebration in their honour included a two-hour parade through the streets of Jakarta that was led by a car carrying a gigantic shuttlecock. Susanti returned to win a bronze medal four years later in Atlanta, and in 1997 Susanti and Kusuma were married.
Model of dedication
At the last two Olympic Games, in Sydney and Athens, China has been utterly dominant in women’s singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles. The story of 2004 champion Zhang Ning is a model of dedication: she left her home in Liaonong Province at the age of 12 to train full-time, and when she and her fiancé received their marriage licence in 2001, they delayed their ceremony for three years until after the 2004 Games, during which time they never spent more than two months together at a stretch.
Ge Fei and Gu Jun from Jiangsu Province began playing badminton together when they were nine years old. Twelve years later, they ran through the field at the 1996 Olympic Games to win the women’s doubles gold medal, and four years later in Sydney they did the same, only once conceding more than seven points in a game. Ge, whose specialty was playing close to the net, also won a world championship in mixed doubles in 1997 while pairing with Liu Yong.