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11 Apr 2007
Olympic News

With Young-Ah Gil, badminton entered the Olympic Games

South Korean athlete Young-Ah Gil celebrates her 37th birthday today. Fifteen years ago, in 1992, she took part in her first Olympic Games in Barcelona. Let’s look back at the career of an athlete who marked the debut of badminton on the Olympic stage.

It all began in Barcelona in 1992
An official demonstration sport in Munich in 1972, badminton was unanimously admitted to the Olympic programme of the Barcelona Games in a decision taken by the 90th IOC Session, meeting in Berlin in 1985. This was the opportunity for the best athletes of the time to compete under the Olympic symbol – the five rings – and attempt to win the first Olympic medals ever awarded in this sport. At the time, as Asia already dominated world badminton, the Chinese, Indonesians and Koreans were the favourites.

Four events were on the programme: men’s’ singles and doubles and women’s singles and doubles. Some 177 athletes from 36 countries took part in the competition, including doubles specialist Young-Ah Gil, then aged 22. On 3 August 1992, under the lights of the centre court of the Pavelló de la Mar Bella, before almost 4,000 spectators, she was defeated in the semi-final, with her partner Shim, by Chinese pair Guan and Nong. A thrilling three-match set put paid to their hopes. The South Koreans had to be content with the bronze, but they gave their country its first Olympic badminton medal. At that edition of the Games, the Republic of Korea won a total of four medals in this sport, including two golds. Asia had confirmed its supremacy.

The gold that made its mark
In 1996, in Atlanta, Young-Ah Gil competed in both the ladies’ doubles and the mixed doubles, a new event accepted by the IOC Executive Board in 1993. Seeded number one in ladies’ doubles, Gil and Jang were not able to clinch the gold. The two South Koreans were defeated again by a Chinese pair, Ge and Gu.

The following day, in the mixed doubles, Gil, assisted by the young Kim, finally won a gold medal, against compatriots Park and Ra. The two athletes exploded with joy: they had won the first gold medal in the history of Olympic mixed doubles.

Badminton incarnate
With her three medals, Young-Ah Gil is the second most decorated Olympian in badminton. By playing the first games in badminton at the Games, she entered the history of a sport whose success would grow. Under the aegis of the Badminton World Federation (BWF), this sport is currently represented in 156 countries on the five continents. The next Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, in the heart of the Asian continent that has produced exceptional players, are sure to offer a great show, full of emotions.
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