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Top badminton players to watch in Rio

Spain's Carolina Marin.
2015 Getty Images

Top badminton players to watch in Rio

Here are five big badminton names to keep an eye on at the Rio Games. 

Hundreds of athletes will compete in the badminton tournaments at the Rio Games, but some have more storied histories than others. Here are five badminton players you should keep an eye on at the upcoming Olympics.

  • Lee Chong Wei fights for redemption, first singles gold

Lee Chong Wei at the London 2012 Olympics.

Lee Chong Wei at the London 2012 Olympics. Credit: Kyle Terada

It’s been a long struggle for Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, a two-time Olympic silver medalist who’s been ranked World No. 1 by the Badminton World Federation for over 300 nonconsecutive weeks. 

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After a second round loss in men’s singles at the 2004 Athens Games, Lee advanced to the final of the 2008 Beijing Games. There, he lost to China’s Lin Dan in straight sets. He had an opportunity for revenge at the 2012 London Games, where Lee and Lin faced off again in the men’s singles final. Once again, Lin defeated Lee in three tight sets.

In the years since, Lee has won World Championships titles in 2013 and 2015. That October, he was hit with a doping ban that lasted through May 1, 2015. Since then, Lee has made a remarkable comeback; two weeks before the Rio Games begin, he sits atop the world rankings.

Who is … Lee Chong Wei

Learn more about the Malaysian two-time Olympic silver medalist. 

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Lee’s Olympic performances have made him his country’s most successful Olympian ever. He will attempt to cap his illustrious badminton career with an elusive gold medal in men’s singles.  

  • Lin “Super” Dan goes for record third singles gold 

Lin Dan at the 2012 London Olympics.

Lin Dan at the 2012 London Olympics. Credit: Kyle Terada

Two-time men’s singles gold medalist Lin “Super” Dan of China will make his fourth Olympic appearance at the Rio Games.

Lin is considered by many the greatest badminton player of all time, as he is the only man to have completed the sport’s “Super Grand Slam”: wins at nine major tournaments, including the Olympics.

For the first time, the athlete heads to Rio as an underdog. He is currently ranked World No. 3 by the Badminton World Federation, behind longtime rival Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia (now World No. 1) and compatriot Chen Long (World No. 2). 
  • Chen Long seeks a return to form

London 2012 men's singles bronze medalist Chen Long (CHN). Credit: Kyle Terada

Chen Long is one of the most decorated active men’s badminton players. At his debut Olympic appearance in London 2012, he scored a bronze medal in singles. Since then, he’s been largely dominant: He won gold in men’s singles at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships. 

Who is … Chen Long?

Learn all about the Chinese badminton player who had consistently been ranked World No. 1 for two years. 

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From December 2014 through June 2016, he was the World No. 1 badminton singles player - before Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei took the top spot. Chen will likely square off against Lee, as well as compatriot and two-time Olympic gold medalist Lin “Super” Dan, at the Rio Games.  

  • Carolina Marin looks to make history

Spain's World No. 1 badminton player Carolina Marin. Credit: 2015 Getty Images

Badminton singles player Carolina Marin has a chance to set a number of historical precedents at the Rio 2016 Games.

Who is ... Carolina Marin

Since the conclusion of the London Games, Spain's Carolina Marin has ascended the world badminton rankings.

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For one, World No. 1 Marin could become the third non-Asian woman to win a badminton singles medal since the sport’s Olympic introduction in 1992. (Denmark’s Camilla Martin won silver in 2000, and the Netherlands’ Mia Audina won silver in 2004). That also means Marin has a shot at becoming the first non-Asian gold medalist.  

Marin started playing badminton in 2009. She won badminton gold in women’s singles at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships. Early this past May, she hit World No. 1 status – and remains at the top of the rankings just ahead of the Games.  

  • Saina Nehwal aims for second Olympic medal

Saina Nehwal will play women's singles at the Rio Games.

Saina Nehwal will play women's singles at the Rio Games. Credit: 2015 Getty Images

India’s Saina Nehwal has a lot to prove at the Rio Games. 

At the London 2012 Games, she became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in badminton with a bronze in singles. She peaked three years later, reaching World No. 1 status in April 2015; that August, she won singles silver at the World Championships.

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Unfortunately, 2016 has been rough for Saina. While battling various injuries, the Indian suffered some tough losses. Saina bounced around the rankings, but currently holds the World No. 5 spot just two weeks away from the Rio Games. 

Badminton 101: History

Learn the history of badminton at the Olympics. 

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Saina was the World No. 2 badminton player in August 2015. One year later, she’ll have to fight hard to defend her Olympic bronze medal. 


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