Australia will send a four-athlete team to Tokyo 2020. (Photo: Badminton Australia)

Australia's badminton chances at Tokyo 2020 rests on a four-athlete team, lead by former Olympian Chen Hsuan-yu.

There are five events for Badminton at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Badminton’s History and Olympic Games Format

A sport that’s been around since the 1870s, badminton quickly grew in popularity in England and by the turn of the century, championship events were starting to take shape.

A racquet sport, Tokyo 2020 will be the 10th time badminton is on show at an Olympic Games though it wasn’t declared a medal event until 1992 in Barcelona after debuting as a demonstration sport in 1972 in Munich.

Its official inclusion into the Olympic programme came in 1992, with men’s and women’s singles and doubles events were included and four years later, mixed doubles made its debut.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, badminton will be contested across singles and doubles with a men’s and women’s contest in each event with an additional mixed doubles competition.

The men’s singles will consist of 44 competitors while the women’s singles portion of the draw sees 39 participants. Across all three of the doubles events, there will be 16 teams in each discipline.

In badminton’s singles format, it consists of group stages, the number of which is dependant on the number of competitors. The group stages are followed by knock-out stages of which the top-ranked player in each group will qualify.

For doubles badminton events at Tokyo 2020, 16 pairs will be divided into four groups with the top two pairs advancing to the knock-out stages in a separate, revised draw to avoid teams from the same National Olympic Committees from competing against each other.

Badminton is played in singles or pairs whose aim is to hit a shuttlecock over a net and have it land inside the lines on the opposite side of the court. Failure to hit the shuttlecock before it reaches the ground, by it hitting the net or by hitting it out of the confines of the court gives a point to the opposing team.

When a side wins a point, they then serve for the next point. Each match is a best of three games with a winner declared when a player or team reaches 21 points with a two-point ledger. However, should the scores be 29-all, the side that wins the 30th point wins that game.

In 1985, International Badminton Federation President Poul-Erik Nielsen receives the Olympic flag, confirming badminton’s inclusion at the Games.
(Photo: Louis Ross)

Previous Olympic Performances

A total of 11 nations have been awarded badminton medals throughout the duration of its time in the Olympics with China leading the way with 41 that includes 18 gold medals. The total number of China’s medals is 22 more than the next best country, Indonesia.

China was able to achieve a ‘shutout’ of medals at the 2012 London Olympic Games, its athletes taking home gold medals in each of the five disciplines.

In the men’s singles division, China’s Chen Long is the most recent gold medal winner at Rio in 2016 after a bronze medal at London in 2012. Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who finished with silver in three consecutive Games has since retired while Demark’s Viktor Axelsen who finished with bronze is the current number two in the world.

Current world number one Kento Momota of Japan has never attended an Olympic Games and has a chance to add a medal to his already strong performances that include two World Championship gold medals.

As for the women’s singles event, Spain’s three-time World Champion Carolina Marin won gold at the last Olympic Games with India also a strong competitor in badminton.

Current women’s world number one Tai Tzu-ying failed to make it past the Round of 16 in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, looking to add a medal to her two Asian Championships gold medals.

In mixed doubles, China’s Zhang Nan has medalled in the last two Olympic Games partnering with Zhao Yunlei. Nan also claimed gold in Rio men’s doubles teammate Fu Haifeng, also a three-time Olympic Games medal winner.

Women’s doubles is an open field this year, since 2008, five countries have split medals with each team consisting of different members among the podium placings.

Indonesia currently holds the top two places in men’s doubles rankings however hasn’t placed at an Olympics since winning gold in 2008. The same can be said about Japan in women’s doubles, holding the top two ranking positions though the pairing of Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi did win gold in 2016.

The top-ranked pair in mixed doubles, Si Wei Zheng and Ya Qiong Huang from China have never placed together at an Olympic Games.

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Australia’s 2020 Olympic Hopefuls

While Australia has produced no Olympic medallists, they have usually sent a good crew of athletes in badminton however the number of competitors they’ve been sending has been dropping gradually since 1996.

This year though, Australia will be sending four athletes to Tokyo – Chen Hsuan-yu (Women’s Singles), Setyana Mapasa (Women’s Doubles), Gronya Somerville (Women’s and Mixed Doubles) and Simon Leung (Mixed Doubles).

Hsuan-yu is the only Australian on this year’s squad to have previously represented the national team in badminton at an Olympic Games during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She is a six-time Oceania Championships women’s singles winner, stretching from 2015 to 2020.

This is the first Olympic Games 25-year-old Mapasa has qualified for, having previously represented the national team at Oceania Championships – winning gold in four women’s doubles events and two mixed doubles. She also competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Somerville and Leung each specialise in doubles events and will also make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo. Somerville has won gold medals in six women’s doubles Oceania Championships and two mixed doubles events.

Leung has won back-to-back mixed doubles events at the 2019 and 2020 Oceania Championships. His best result in men’s doubles was silver in Melbourne in 2019.

Badminton runs from July 24 to August 2 at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza. Medal matches begin on July 30 for mixed doubles, before the men’s doubles medal match on July 31. On August 1 is when the women’s singles medal game is on while August 2 will see gold decided in men’s singles and women’s doubles.

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