What we learned: Badminton wrap-up from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

From Viktor Axelsen's triumph to Chinese Taipei's historic run, we take a look at badminton's most memorable moments at Tokyo 2020, a medal recap, and what we have to look forward to at Paris 2024.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Badminton delivered shock victories, amazing comebacks, and the unearthing of new stars in equal measure at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Viktor Axelsen was amongst several players to see his dream come true when he clinched Olympic gold.

China's Chen Yu Fei was the youngest badminton champion in Tokyo as Chinese Taipei's Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin created history by winning their nation's maiden Olympic medal.

With Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu taking home gold, Indonesia added their names to a very elite list of champions in all events at the Olympic Games.

Below, we take a look back at the most memorable moments, a recap of the medal winners, and who to look out for at the Paris 2024 Olympics in just three years!

Top 5 badminton moments at Tokyo 2020

Here are some of the highlights from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which took place in 2021.

1 - Viktor Axelsen defeats reigning Olympic champion to clinch title

Denmark's Viktor Axelsen added his name to the history books when he became only the second player from outside of Asia to clinch the men's singles title. The 27-year-old who won bronze at Rio 2016 was in top form as he stormed to Olympic gold without losing a single game in his six matches at Tokyo 2020.

The 2017 world champion defeated both of China's medal contenders en route to the top step of the podium, first Shi Yu Qi in the quarter-finals and then Rio 2016 champion Chen Long in the final.

Only one non-Asian player had ever claimed the men's singles title before him, compatriot Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen at Atlanta 1996, who was on court to participate in the medal ceremony in Tokyo and advised the newly-crowned Olympic champion that "This will drive you for the rest of your life" .

Tokyo 2020 badminton men's singles podium
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

2 - China exerts its dominance as Chen Yu Fei reclaims women's singles crown

Chen Yu Fei lived up to her billing as the top seed to deliver gold for China in the women's singles.

The 23-year-old had a stellar Olympic debut as she defeated three-time Olympian Tai Tzu-Ying in the final. It marks the fifth time from eight occasions that China has clinched the women's singles title at the Games

Heading into Tokyo 2020 in 2021 there were many questions about the performance level of the Chinese badminton squad, mainly because they had not participated in any international tournaments since the pandemic started in early 2020.

However they departed Japan with the most number of medals, winning two golds and four silvers. There was a Chinese player in every final with a guaranteed gold in the mixed doubles when both their pairs made the final with Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping emerging victorious.

3 - Chinese Taipei clinch their first badminton medals

Going into Tokyo 2020, no player from Chinese Taipei had ever stood on the Olympic podium.

However unseeded men's doubles pair of Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin not only delivered a first for their nation, but also their first gold in the sport.

After scraping through the group stages by the finest of margins, the Chinese Taipei pair found their stride in the knockout stages. They beat home favourites Watanabe Yuta and Endo Hiroyuki in the quarter-finals and then the reigning world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan from Indonesia. Their opponents in the final, 2018 world champions Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen from China, was another remarkable upset as Lee and Wang went on to clinch gold.

The next day, their compatriot Tai Tzu-Ying added a silver in the women's singles. It was her first medal in three Olympic outings, solidifying Chinese Taipei's badminton medal breakthrough at the Games.

4 - Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu continue Indonesia's gold medal form

Apart from London 2012, Indonesian shuttlers have delivered a gold medal at every Games since the sport made its debut in 1992.

This time around it was women's doubles pair Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu who overcame tournament second seeds in the final to clinch the title.

It was not an easy route to victory for the Indonesians who were pushed to the brink of exhaustion during an epic one-hour 40-minute match in the quarter-finals. They displayed great fighting spirit and their desire to win powered them to victory as they became the first Indonesian women's doubles pair to win gold at the Olympics.

Their achievement also means that Indonesia is now only the second country behind China to have won a gold medal in each of the five badminton events at the Olympics.

Tokyo 2020 women's doubles gold medallist
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

5 - Watanabe Yuta secures a medal for the host nation

Watanabe Yuta was one of a few players who was competing in two events at Tokyo 2020. He played men's doubles with partner Endo Hiroyuki and mixed doubles with Higashino Arisa.

The 24-year-old's hopes of medalling in both were dashed as he lost his men's doubles quarter-finals to the eventual champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin from Chinese Taipei, but he was able to progress to the semi-finals of the mixed doubles with Higashino.

Despite winning the first game, Watanabe and Higashino eventually lost the match to Tokyo 2020 gold medallists Wang and Huang from China. The Japanese pair bounced back in the bronze medal match to defeat Hong Kong's Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet, to clinch the host nation's only badminton medal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

One last look at badminton players who suprised

Big surprises do tend to happen at big tournaments and the Tokyo 2020 is no different.

There were a few players who stole a lot of attention in Japan and one of them is Heo Kwanghee from the Republic of Korea who pulled off the win of his career when he upset reigning world champion and tournament top seed Momota Kento. It was a shock win for the 25-year-old who eliminated one of the favourites to win gold.

The same can be said of Kevin Cordon from Guatemala. He pulled off an upset over Hong Kong's Ng Ka Long in the group stage to advance to the knockout round where he beat players ranked higher than him including Heo in the quarter-finals.

The 34-year-old's fairytale run at the Olympics came to a halt when he lost to eventual champion Viktor Axelsen in the semi-finals, and was unable to overcome Indonesia's Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in the bronze medal match.

Despite leaving Tokyo without a medal, Cordon and Heo proved that the rankings is by no means a guaranteed indicator of who will triumph out on court.

Viktor Axelsen(right) and Kevin Cordon after the men's semi-finals
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Hello Paris 2024

With all but one of the gold medallist in their twenties, many of the rivalries we enjoyed so much in Japan will likely be renewed at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

We can expect the likes of Momota Kento to be back hungry for redemption, while the younger wave of player like Lee Zii Jia from Malaysia, Shi Yu Qi from China as well as Indonesia's Jonatan Christie would have greatly benefitted from their maiden Olympic outing and be back stronger in Paris.

23-year-old Chen Yu Fei is the youngest of the champions at Tokyo 2020 and with the burden of delivering an Olympic title off her shoulders, she is free to focus on developing her game in the future and will no doubt look to defend her title and cement her name in the history books.

The Republic of Korea's An Seyoung is also one to keep a close eye on. The 19-year-old is steadily rising up the rankings and should be around Chen's age when the next Games comes around, and potentially a stronger contender for a medal.

Indonesia's Greysia Polli is the most experienced gold medallist of these Games. She will be close to 37 by the time the next Games takes place, while her partner Apriyani Rahayu is currently only 23 years old. It will be interesting to see if they continue as a pair or if Polii decides to retire on this high, leaving Rahayu to build up another partnership to defend her title.

When and where to watch badminton replays on Olympics.com

The answer is here: Olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

Highlights clips and full sessions from the pool are being made available shortly after the Tokyo Games.

When do the top badminton players compete next?

The BWF World Tour resumes on 7 September with the Taipei Open but the major tournaments to look forward to arethe Sudirman Cup mixed team World championships starting 26 September in Finland followed by the Thomas and Uber Cup finals scheduled to start on 9 October in Denmark.

It is yet to be confirmed which athletes are competing.

Full medals list in badminton at Tokyo 2020 in 2021

Men's singles

Gold: Viktor Axelsen (DEN)

Silver: Chen Long (CHN)

Bronze: Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (INA)

Women's singles

Gold: Chen Yu Fei (CHN)

Silver: Tai Tzu-Ying (TPE)

Bronze: Pusarla V. Sindhu (IND)

Men's doubles

Gold: Lee Yang & Wang Chi-Lin (TPE)

Silver: Li Jun Hui & Liu Yu Chen (CHN)

Bronze: Aaron Chia & Soh Wooi Yik (MAS)

Women's doubles

Gold: Greysia Polii & Apriyani Rahayu (INA)

Silver: Chen Qing Chen & Jia Yi Fan (CHN)

Bronze: Kim Soyeong & Kong Heeyong (KOR)

Mixed doubles

Gold: Wang Yi Lyu & Huang Dong Ping (CHN)

Silver: Zheng Si Wei & Huang Ya Qiong (CHN)

Bronze: Watanabe Yuta & Higashino Arisa (JPN)


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