Where did badminton come from? The sport’s history is somewhat convoluted and begins with a game of a different name. It’s believed that Ancient Greek drawings dating back over 2000 years represent a game closely resembling modern-day badminton. How did the game survive all these years? What has changed about it? Let’s take a look at the shuttlecock’s journey through time from Ancient Greece to the modern-day Olympic Games.
History of Badminton as it Traveled the Globe
Ancient Greek drawings have been discovered that depict a game previously known as Battledore and Shuttlecock. It was initially a game for children, and there was no net. A shuttlecock was volleyed back and forth with wood-framed rackets that had parchment, nylon or guts stretched over them. The rackets were known as battledores. The shuttlecock was a lightweight material, like cork, and had several feathers in a cone shape around the top. These were often goose or duck feathers.
Smashing through Asia, All the Way to England
Battledore and Shuttlecock was also a popular game in Asian countries like Japan, China, Thailand, and India thousands of years ago. It is thought to have traveled there from Greece.
The History of Badminton in England began in the late 1800s. It was in Pune, India that the game was picked up by British soldiers who were stationed there around 1860. It is thought that these British soldiers brought the game, commonly called Poona in India at the time, back to England. The English contemporary version of the game of Poona is where the net was first introduced.
Badminton’s leap to serious competition seems to have flourished there in England. The game became the pastime of the wealthy and distinguished. It was played frequently starting in the year 1873 at the estate of the dukes of Beaufort in Gloucester, England. It soon lost the title of Poona, and became closely associated with their magnificent country estate: Badminton House. Thus the name of modern-day badminton was born.
The game became very popular with both men and women in England as the higher society gathered to play it. It wasn’t long before men started taking this competition seriously. The first unofficial All-England Championship was played in 1899. The following year, women were included! It is interesting to note that the badminton court then was not the rectangular court we are familiar with today. It was more of an hourglass shape, narrowing at the net. The rectangular court was introduced in 1902. The All-England Open is now still one of the most distinguished badminton competitions in the world today. It has a rich past with title winners from countries all over the globe.
When Did the Shuttlecock Come to America?
In 1878, New York’s high society had a new place to congregate. The Badminton Club of New York was the first of its kind in our country. It was formed by two young world travelers who brought the rules of the game directly from India. It was considered remarkable in American history that badminton included women with men in a sporting event.
The game began surfacing in YMCA’s across the country. In the 1930s, more badminton clubs began popping up. These badminton groups and clubs united as one society in 1936, forming The American Badminton Association. These groups worked together to make standardized rules. Finally, in 1949, an American was crowned champion in the men’s singles category at the All-England championships. This American was David Freeman, a California badminton player who would later be inducted into the US and World Badminton Halls of Fame.
The Badminton World Federation’s History
In 1934, nine countries who valued the game of badminton collaborated to create the International Badminton Federation (IBF). That collaboration grew steadily from 9 nations to 176 participating nations today. The official name change from International Badminton Federation to Badminton World Federation occurred in 2006 at an Extraordinary General Meeting in the city of Madrid.
The first World Badminton Championship was held in 1977 in Sweden. At the time it was sanctioned by the IBF. The World Badminton Championship is now sanctioned by the BWF. It’s an annual event and crowns a “World Champion” who is awarded a gold medal. This competition does not offer prize money but does offer a significant number of points towards the BWF Rankings. The World Championship features intense competition, soaring highs, and crushing disappointments as countries battle to take the honor of the gold home. The 2019 Badminton World Championship was especially joyous for India, as PV Sindhu took home the gold.
Badminton’s History with the Olympics
Badminton appeared in some capacity at the Olympics before the first World Badminton Championship. It was a demonstration sport in 1972 but was not eligible for actual medals. It wasn’t until 1992 that men’s and women’s singles and doubles were included as full medal categories for badminton. In the 1992 games in Barcelona, Alan Budikusuma took home the first-ever men’s singles gold while representing Indonesia. Susi Susanti, also representing Indonesia, took home the first-ever gold medal for women’s singles. Korea took home the gold for both men’s and women’s doubles categories. In its debut year, badminton did not have a mixed doubles category.
In 1996, the Olympics added mixed doubles as a medal qualifying category. Kim Dong-moon and Gil Young-ah, representing Korea, took home the very first gold medal for mixed doubles in the Olympic games.
It wasn’t long after these first two years that China clearly became the front runner in the collection of medals for badminton at the Olympic Games. They have won more Olympic badminton medals than any other country, with a cool 41 medals, 18 of which were gold.
Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics would’ve been the 8th consecutive time badminton was featured in the Summer Games. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic that began in Wuhan, China spread worldwide. Due to fears over the spread of the virus, the Olympic Committee and Japan agreed to postpone the competitions until the summer of 2021.
Here’s hoping that American badminton can begin carving out a place for itself in badminton lore, as well as a place for itself in Olympic statistics. You can help the American players succeed by supporting the sport. Become a part of Amerca’s badminton history.
Chronological History of Badminton
Let’s rehash some of the major milestones in the history of badminton with a comprehensive timeline: