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Olympic badminton at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

The biggest stars of the sport will chase after Olympic gold in 2021, including Momota Kento, Chen Long, PV Sindhu and Okuhara Nozomi. But a couple of big names won't be there. Find out the schedule, venue, format and more.
By Sanjeev Palar

Badminton at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021 will be the eighth staging of the sport as a medal event since making its debut at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.

China has historically dominated, winning 18 of the 34 gold medals contested to date.

At Tokyo, we are set to see a new wave of Japanese players who have been training their entire careers for this moment to shine at their home Games.

Here, we take a closer look at the athletes in contention for the podium and take in some Olympic history in our guide to Olympic badminton at Tokyo 2020.

Top Olympic badminton players at Tokyo 2020 in 2021

Men

Reigning Olympic champion Chen Long will look to emulate Lin Dan's back-to-back Olympic titles at the upcoming Games in Tokyo. However, the 32-year-old will have his work cut out for him fending off a wave of younger players who are looking for glory on their Olympic debut.

This includes double world champion Momota Kento who was omitted form the Rio 2016 squad, and is currently the player to beat on the circuit. Momota was involved in a car crash at the start of last year which left him requiring eye surgery. The postponement of the Games has given the 26-year-old ample time to recover and return to full strength, and will undoubtedly be the favourite to clinch Japan's maiden men's singles gold medal.

Rio 2016 bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen has also improved his game since the last edition and with the confidence of a world championship title under his belt, the Dane will be dangerous on court.

Malaysians will no longer have three-time silver medallist Lee Chong Wei to pin their hopes to, although the retired player will be in Tokyo as their chef-de-mission. Instead youngster Lee Zii Jia will have to shoulder the nation's expectations, as will Anthony Ginting and Jonatan Christie for Indonesia. Any of them could pull off an upset on their Olympic debut.

Women

Reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin will be the biggest name missing from the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021. The Spaniard was forced to pull out after suffering another ACL injury, this time to her left knee. Her first ACL injury to her right knee in 2019 saw her side-lined for eight months.

The spotlight will now likely be on Rio 2016 bronze medallist, Okuhara Nozomi, who will undoubtedly want to shine on home soil and her never give up attitude could just be the little extra to help her clinch the title.

Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying is the only player who has managed to beat Marin in a final this year, when she clinched the World Tour Finals title in Bangkok. The 26-year-old will look to do better on her third Olympic outing, after never having progressed further that the round of 16.

Reigning world champion PV Sindhu is also a threat if she can find the form that carried her to the last final in Rio.

Making their Olympic debuts will be Japan's Yamaguchi Akane, China's Chen Yu Fei and South Korea's An Se Young, and either of them are capably of beating the more senior players if they play to their potential.

Doubles

The women's doubles title is expected to be a battle between Japan and South Korea given the way the nation's top pairs have been dominating the scene.

Two-time world-champions Matsumoto Mayu and Nagahara Wakana the favourites to do well on home soil. But don't rule out the Indonesian pairing of Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu who are capable of causing an upset.

Indonesia are also expected to do well in the men's doubles with Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo leading the charge and veterans Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan also in the mix. Setiawan already has an Olympic gold medal to his name, having emerged victorious with his former partner Markis Kido at Beijing 2008.

Japan's Watanabe Yuta and Endo Hiroyuki as well as the pairing of Kamura Takeshi and Sonada Keigo are expected to keep the host nation's medal hopes alive.

Watanabe could have his work cut out for him as he will also play in the mixed doubles with partner Higashino Arisa. Although it will be two-time and reigning world champions Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong from China who will be the favourites to clinch their maiden Olympic title.

Olympic badminton venue at Tokyo 2020

The newly-constructed Musashino Forest Sport Plaza will play host to the world's best shuttlers.

Located close to the Tokyo Stadium, the venue can accommodate 7,200 people and will serve as a multi-purpose sports venue.

It will also host the fencing round of the modern pentathlon three days after the final day of badminton action.

Olympic badminton schedule at Tokyo 2020

All times are Japan Standard Time (GMT/UTC+9)

The competition will take place from 24 July - 2 August 2021.

24 July 2021

9:00 - 14:30 & 18:00 - 22:00

  • Men's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Men's Doubles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Doubles Group Play Stage
  • Mixed Doubles Group Play Stage

25 July 2021

10:00 - 15:30 & 18:00 - 21:30

  • Men's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Men's Doubles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Doubles Group Play Stage
  • Mixed Doubles Group Play Stage

26 July 2021

10:00 - 15:30 & 18:00 - 21:30

  • Men's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Men's Doubles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Doubles Group Play Stage
  • Mixed Doubles Group Play Stage

27 July 2021

10:00 - 15:30 & 18:00 - 21:30

  • Men's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Men's Doubles Group Play Stage
  • Women's Doubles Group Play Stage

28 July 2021

9:00 - 14:30

  • Women's Singles Group Play Stage
  • Mixed Doubles Quarterfinals

18:00 - 21:30

  • Men's Singles Group Play Stage

29 July 2021

9:00 - 15:30

  • Mixed Doubles Semifinals
  • Men's Doubles Quarterfinals
  • Women's Singles Round of 16

17:00 - 22:00

  • Men's Singles Round of 16
  • Women's Doubles Quarterfinals

30 July 2021

9:00 - 12:30

  • Women's Singles Quarterfinals
  • Mixed Doubles Bronze Medal Match

15:30 - 21:30

  • Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Match
  • Women's Singles Quarterfinals
  • Men's Doubles Semifinals

31 July 2021

9:00 - 16:00

  • Men's Singles Quarterfinals
  • Women's Doubles Semifinals

18:00 - 23:00

  • Women's Singles Semifinals
  • Men's Doubles Bronze Medal Match
  • Men's Doubles Gold Medal Match

1 Aug 2021

13:00 - 16:00

  • Men's Singles Semifinals

20:30 - 23:00

  • Women's Singles Bronze Medal Match
  • Women's Singles Gold Medal Match

2 Aug 2021

13:00 - 15:30

  • Women's Doubles Bronze Medal Match
  • Women's Doubles Gold Medal Match

20:00 - 23:00

  • Men's Singles Bronze Medal Match
  • Men's Singles Gold Medal Match

Olympic badminton competition format at Tokyo 2020

The competition at Tokyo 2020 will consist of men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles.

A match consists of the best of three games, with the first player or pair to reach 21 points winning the game. If the score is 20-all, whoever gains a two-point lead wins that game. If the difference is less than two, the game continues until the two-point difference is achieved. If the score gets to 29-all, whoever reaches 30 first wins the game.

A match is won by winning two games. Either the server or receiver can win a point by winning the rally.

In singles events, players are divided into 12-16 groups of three to four players each for a series of round-robin matches. The top-ranked player in each group then advances to the round of 16.

In doubles, players are divided into four round-robin groups of four. The two top-ranked pairs in each group then progress to the quarterfinals.

Olympic badminton history

Badminton made its debut at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, featuring four categories: men's and women's singles as well as men's and women's doubles. Mixed doubles was added to the programme at the Games in 1996.

China have long enjoyed a deep pool of badminton talent to draw from. The country has won a total of 18 gold medals — the most by any nation. At London 2012 they became the only country ever to win gold in all five categories - men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles.

But just four years later, at Rio 2016, the balance of power shifted, with Marin becoming the first non-Asian to clinch the women's singles title, while Japan and Indonesia also won their maiden gold medals in women's doubles and mixed doubles respectively.

Although Asian countries initially dominated the sport, a new generation of players from Europe have started to take centre stage at major tournaments and this edition of the Games could see a shift from the dominance of traditionally strong Asian countries.