The Greatest Badminton Players of All-Time


The most recent Badminton world championships have recently concluded and so I decided to look at who the best players in history are at singles.

The tables show the most successful players in singles for men and women and the year they first came to prominence. The other columns show the number of wins in various tournaments indicated here.
OG – Olympic Games
WC – World Championships
#1- weeks at world number 1 in rankings
GP – Grand Prix Final
AE – All England Championships
WCp – World Cup


Rudy Hartono (Indo) 1968 1 8
Erland Kops (Den) 1958 7
Frank Devlin (Irl) 1925 6
Ralph Nichols (Eng) 1932 5
George Thomas (Eng) 1920 4
Eddy Choong (Malay) 1953 4
Morten Frost (Den) 1982 4
Lin Dan (Chn) 2004 2 5 14 6 2
Chen Long (Chn) 2011 1 2 76 2
Yang Yang (Chn) 1985 1 2 1 2
Kento Momota (Jap) 2013 2 49 1
David G. Freeman (US) 1939 1
Lee Chong Wei (Malay) 2003 310 4
Viktor Axelsen (Den) 2010 1 51 1



Ethel Thomson (Eng) 1900 5
Meriel Lucas (Eng) 1902 6
Kitty McKane (Eng) 1920 4
Marjorie Barrett (Eng) 1926 5
Judy Devlin (US) 1954 10
Susi Susanti (Indo) 1990 1 1 6 4 5
Hiroe Yuki (Jap) 1969 4
Carolina Marín (Spa) 2013 1 3 66 1
Han Aiping (Chn) 1983 2 2 1 2
Li Lingwei (Chn) 1982 2 4 2 4
Xie Xingfang (Chn) 2000 2 3 1
Tonny Ahm (Den) 1935 2
Ye Zhaoying (Chn) 1992 2 1 3 1
Tai Tzu-ying (Tai) 2010 137 1
Li Xuerui (Chn) 2010 1 124 1
Wang Yihan (Chn) 2007 1 116 1
Zhang Ning (Chn) 2003 2 1


The All England Championships was the most important event in the sport from the turn of the 20th century until the 1970s when the world championships began. The All England really became a globally competitive event in 1980 as badminton gained in popularity. It made its first appearance as a full Olympic medal sport in 1992. Official world rankings began in 2007 along with a world series of major events.

As is often the case in assessing these things the competition in the early days of the sport was much less strong and players could win more titles in the All-England.

For the men the choice came down to two.  From the earlier days Rudy Hartono has the outstanding record in the All-England, the unofficial world championship of the time.  This was in an era when competition was quite international and he took the first world title.  He also won the Olympic gold in a demonstration event in 1972.  I give top spot to Lin Dan who is undoubtedly the greatest player of the 21st century.  To win the titles he did in an era of great worldwide competition makes him the greatest ever player.

Third place is a close call between Chen Long, Yang Yang and Lee Chong Wei.  The two Chinese players had a great record in the major events of Olympics and world championships.  Lee hasn’t won any of those but has been ranked top for six years and won many other tournaments.  I look to major championships as having great importance and go for Yang Yang third and Chen Long fourth.

The great enigma in this list is Freeman.  From 1939, at the age of eighteen, to his final tournament match fourteen years later, Freeman was undefeated in badminton singles competition.  However, nearly all of these were in America where there was little opposition.  He played the All-England once and won it so could well have won many more had he entered.  I can’t assume he would have so can only place him speculatively in the rankings at sixth along with Kops.

The final places in my top ten are close again.  I think it is between Devlin, Choong, Frost and Momota.

Embed from Getty Images

Lin Dan


For the women Judy Devlin is far and away the greatest player in the era before 1980 when badminton became more ‘Open’.  She has to be included in any conversation about the best of all-time but the question is hard to answer when comparing with the top modern players.

For me the best players since 1980 are Li Lingwei, Susi Susanti and Carolina Marin.  My choice of these is Susanti as she had a slightly longer time as the world’s top player.  Lingwei is just ahead of Marin for me although hopefully the Spaniard, who is still young and has such a great championship record, will have more opportunities for titles.

Where does Devlin rank with these three?  This is one of the more difficult decisions I have faced.  Devlin was playing in a more competitive time than anyone else on the list with five or more All England titles but not as much as the other recent greats.  I feel that Susanti is probably just ahead but Devlin is second in a close call with Li and Marin.

Fifth and sixth are closely matched between Han and Ye with Xie and Zhang in thanext two spots.  From the early days Meriel Lucas is my choice for a spot in the top ten but Li Xuerul and Wang Yihan are almost impossible to separate and perhaps should be there too.

Embed from Getty Images

Susi Susanti

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The History of Sport 1928: Amsterdam Olympics – Nurmi’s ninth gold, women’s athletics and gymnastics. Winter Olympics in St.Moritz-Grafstrom’s third gold. Swinton win Rugby League Grand Slam, Dixie Dean scores sixty goals

Some of the main events in sport in 1928.

The 1928 Winter Olympics takes place at St Moritz in Switzerland
Norway wins the most medals (15) and the most gold medals (6)

Gillis Grafstrom wins his third successive title at figure skating.  Clas Thunberg wins his fifth gold over two Games at speed skating.  The Canadian ice-hockey team wins gold and in the tournament scores 38 goals without conceding any.

The 1928 Summer Olympics takes place at Amsterdam
United States wins the most medals (56) and the most gold medals (22)

The Olympic Flame was lit for the first time for the duration of the Olympics.
These Games were the first to feature a fixed schedule of sixteen days, which is still followed.
Johnny Weissmuller, who later appeared in several Tarzan movies, won two gold medals in swimming: an individual gold in the men’s 100 m freestyle, and a team gold in the men’s 4 x 200 m freestyle relay.
Paavo Nurmi of Finland won his ninth, and final, gold medal in the 10,000 m race.
Britain’s Douglas Lowe retains his 800m title and is the first athlete to retain a running title.  Other British golds come in the 400m hurdles where Lord Burghley wins and in rowing where GB win their third successive coxless fours.
Uruguay retained its title in football by defeating Argentina.
India took its first ever gold medal in field hockey, beginning a streak of six consecutive gold medals in the sport and winning the title with no goals scored against them.

Mikio Oda of Japan won the triple jump event becoming the first gold medalist from an Asian country.
An Algerian-born marathon runner makes history for Africa as Boughera El Ouafi wins a gold medal for France in the men’s marathon.

Crown Prince Olav, who would later become King of Norway, won a gold medal in the 6 meter sailing event.
Pat O’Callaghan won the first ever medal for a newly independent Ireland, taking gold in the hammer throw.  Pete Desjardins of the USA wins both diving golds.

Women’s athletics and team gymnastics debuted at these Olympics. Halina Konopacka of Poland became the first female Olympic track and field champion. The 800m was held but after criticism from some in authority wasn’t held again until 1960.

There were 14 sports, 20 disciplines and 109 events.  46 nations were represented at the Amsterdam Games.


The first cinder track speedway event is held at High Beech, Essex.

In football James McGrory scores eight goals in one match for Celtic v Dunfermline

Dixie Dean scores sixty goals in 39 games for Everton in the league season which remains the record for top flight English football.

Arsenal pay £11,500 for David Jack, the first transfer over £10,000.  Arsenal’s manager Herbert Chapman introduces numbering to his players’ shirts.

Scotland win 5-1 at Wembley against the previously unbeatable England.

James Smith scores 66 goals in 38 games for Ayr in Scottish Division II.

Dick Pope makes the first water-ski jump of 25 feet at Miami Beach.

George Thomas wins his 28th All-England badminton title since 1903, still a record.

Ty Cobb retires with the highest batting average in a baseball career of .367 and the most runs, 2245.

The Union Mondiale de Billiard is formed for 3 Cushion Billiards.

The first automatic Tote machine for greyhound racing is installed at Wembley.

Swinton win all four trophies open to them in rugby league including the league and Challenge Cup.

In cricket Wally Hammond takes a record ten catches in a match for a non-wicketkeeper and 78 in the season.

England win the rugby union home nations Grand Slam.

Helen Wills-Moody wins singles titles at the French, Wimbledon and US Opens.

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The Greatest Breaststroke Swimmers of All-Time

Following the latest edition of the world swimming championships I thought it was time to look at the greatest swimmers at breast stroke. I am concentrating on the 100m and 200m long-course events as they are the Olympic distances.

The usual caveats apply as there are far more titles available in recent years because world championships are held every two years now and swimmers tend to have won more. The events are generally more competitive however than they were decades ago which somewhat mitigates this ‘title inflation’.

In the following tables the columns represent the number of titles in 100m and h200m in these competitions.

OG – Olympic golds
WC – World Titles
CC – Continental Titles (European/ Pan Pac Championships)
WR – Number of World Records (and how long they stood in years)

The Year column is a rough guide to the first year they were a champion or record holder to show when they competed.

The top male swimmers in no particular order

100 100 100 100 200 200 200 200
Adam Peaty (GB) 1 3 3 4 (4) 2014
Kosuke Kitajima (Jap) 2 1 2 2 (2) 2 1 1 3 (2) 2002
Daniel Gyurta (Hun) 1 3 2 1 2009
Brendan Hansen (US) 2 1 2 (4) 2 2 3 (4) 2001
Norbert Rozsa (Hun) 2 1 2 (2) 1 1 1991
Mike Barrowman (US) 1 1 1 2 6 (13) 1989
David Wilkie (GB) 1 1 2 1 2 (6) 1973
Victor Davis (Can) 1 1 1 1 1 3 (7) 1982
John Hencken (US) 1 1 6 (4)  1 5 (3) 1972
Adrian Moorhouse (GB) 1 3 1 (2) 1 1983

No swimmer is way out ahead of everyone else as is the case elsewhere but my choices as the best are as follows.

At 100m Peaty has been completely dominant over the last five years and has set times so far ahead of anyone else that he is likely to hold the world record for  years.  He has already done enough in my opinion to rank first.

At 200m the choice is even less clear but I just go for Gyurta.  Wilkie had fewer opportunities for medals and with Kitajima is close behind.  Kitajima takes the top spot if looking at the combined achievements over 100 and 200 ahead of Hansen.


The top women championship performers in no order are.

100 100 100 100 200 200 200 200
Ute Gewenige (GDR) 1 1 2 6 (4) 2 1980
Samantha Riley (Aus) 1 1 1 (2) 1 2 1994
Leisel Jones (Aus) 1 2 3 (5) 2 3 (2) 2002
Penny Heyns (SA) 1 2 5 (7) 1 1 4 (2) 1995
Yuliya Efimova (Rus) 1 2 3 2 2007
Rebecca Soni (US) 2 1 1 2 1 1 3 (2) 2008
Lily King (US) 1 2 1 1 (2) 2016
Galina Prozumenshchikova (URS) 1 1 1 2 4 (2) 1963
Luo Xuejan (Chn) 1 2 2001
Agnes Kovacs (Hun) 1 2 1 2 2 1995

Again none stands out as clearly well ahead.  At 100m Jones and Heyns still probably just edge it but King is on course to take over at the top.  At 200m it is Soni, Jones, Efimova and Kovacs who are closely matched.  Overall Leisel Jones is just my choice as the greatest female breaststroker ahead of Soni.

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British Sports Hall of Fame 1949: Raich Carter, Carl Erhardt, Patsy Hendren and Megan Taylor

My choices for the British Sports Hall of Fame for 1949 are:


Raich Carter (Football) – One of the best forwards in Britain of the 1930s and 1940s.  His career spanned both sides of World War Two and his international appearances between 1934 and 1947 made him the longest serving of any England international inside right.  The War restricted the number of official caps but in wartime  unofficial internationals he scored eighteen goals in seventeen appearances.  He  was a success at club level as captain of the Sunderland team that won the league in 1936 and the FA Cup in 1937.  After the War he won the FA Cup again in 1946 with Derby and in 1949 won the Third Division North as player manager of Hull City.

Carl Erhardt (Ice Hockey) – the captain of the Great Britain team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics.  He was 39 years of age at the time which made him the oldest man to win an Olympic gold in Ice hockey.  He became the coach of the team at the 1948 Games.

Patsy Hendren (Cricket) – the third highest run scored in the history of first class cricket with 57,611 at an average of 50.80 between 1907 and 1938.  He played 51 tests for England between 1920 and 1935 scoring 3525 runs at 47.63.  He scored over 2000 runs in fifteen seasons and 3000 runs three times.  Perhaps his finest hour was on the tour of the West Indies in 1930 when he averaged over 115 in Tests and 135 overall.  He was also a brilliant fielder in the deep.

Megan Taylor (Figure skating) – winner of the world title in 1938 and 1939 and placed second in 1934, 1936 and 1937.  She missed the 1935 worlds and 1936 Olympics through injury.  Her international appearances began in 1932 aged eleven when she competed in the Olympics after winning the British title at her first attempt.  She is the second youngest Briton ever go to the Winter Olympics where she came seventh.  She turned professional in 1939.

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The Greatest Decathletes and Heptathletes Of All-Time

My latest look at different athletics events and their finest ever exponents turns to the multi-events.

I have listed a number of the best athletes in roughly chronological order with a table showing their achievements.

The key to the table

OG – Olympic golds
WC – World Titles
CC – Continental Titles (European/ Pan Am Games etc)
WR – Number of World Records (and how long they stood in years)
WL – years ranked world number 1 and the first year that was
Name OG WC CC WR WL Year
Harold Osborn (US) 1 3 1923
Paavo Yrjola (Fin) 1 3 (4) 3 1926
Bob Matthias (US) 2 2 (5) 3 1948
Rafer Johnson (US) 1 1 3 (7) 3 1955
Bill Toomey (US) 1 1 1 (3) 3 1966
Bruce Jenner (US) 1 1 3 (5) 3 1974
Daley Thompson (GB) 2 1 2 4 (9) 5 1980
Jurgen Hingsen (FRG) 3 (2) 1981
Dan O’Brien (US) 1 3 1 (7) 6 1991
Tomas Dvorak (CZ) 3 1 (2) 4 1997
Roman Sebrle (Cz) 1 1 2 1 (11) 3 2002
Bryan Clay (US) 1 1 3 2005
Trey Hardee (US) 2 3 2009
Ashton Eaton (US) 2 2 2 (6) 4 2012

As always the athletes from earlier years didn’t have world championships to enter so my favoured measure to compare eras is by looking at the number of years ranked first, bearing in mind that things have generally become stronger in depth since the early days of the events.

This puts Dan O’Brien first ahead of Daley Thompson and this seems to me a fairly accurate reflection of the top two ever as they both cover all the bases with their feats.  He wasn’t really pushed in the championships because he was so much better than his rivals whereas Daley was great at rising to the big occasion to beat other world record holders in championships.

The event is a hard one to dominate because the training is demanding and athletes can’t sustain their levels for years.  This makes it hard to choose between the raft of athletes at a similar level in my list.

I would put Eaton third but after that it is very hard to separate them.  With not much confidence if pushed I would go in order from fourth to tenth

Dvorak, Sebrle, Jenner, Matthias, Johnson, Yrjola, Toomeylan

The women’s equivalent event is the heptathlon and below is the table for the leading female multi eventers.

Note that the event was the pentathlon until 1980.

Name OG WC CC WR WL Year
Galina Bystrova (URS) 2 2 (2) 2 1957
Irina Press (URS) 1 6 (10) 7 1959
Heide Rosendahl (FRG) 1 2 1968
Burglinde Pollak (GDR) 3 (6) 3 1970
Nadezhda Tkachenko (URS) 1 (3) 4 1974
Ramona Neubert (GDR) 1 1 4 (3) 3 1981
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (US) 2 2 4 (33) 6 1986
Sabine Braun (Ger) 1 2 3 1991
Carolina Kluft (Swe) 1 3 2 6 2002
Jessica Ennis-Hill (GB) 1 3 1 4 2009
Nafi Thiam (Bel) 1 1 1 3 2016

For the heptathlon things are quite clear cut for one and two.  Joyner-Kersee was the dominant figure for the best part of a decade and set marks that haven’t been approached.  Kluft is the only woman in the modern era to dominate as clearly and it would have been interesting to see how high she could have scored had she stuck at the event.

After her it becomes more complicated.  Press was the number one in the world more times than anyone but that was when the event wasn’t as widely competed in as it wasn’t an Olympic discipline when Press won.  It was held at the European championships but Press never competed in those which makes things tricky to assess.  I think that the length of time she was top are enough to place third overall.

Jessica Ennis-Hill comes next but the choice for fifth is close.  Braun’s longevity and having to face JJK for much of her career puts her next.  Tkachenko was a good championship performer but did fail a drugs test which puts a slight question mark over her.  Thiam is the latsest outstanding heptathlete but as yet only ranks sixth  with me.  As a relatively recent event I will only rank the top eight and my final choice is Bystrova over Pollak who was a frequent medallist but never won gold.





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The History of Sport 1927: Babe Ruth hits sixty home runs for the all conquering Yankees, the first Ryder Cup, Greyhound Derby, Champion Hurdle and World table tennis championship, the ‘Long Count’ heavyweight title fight.


Some of the main events in sport in 1927

In football Cardiff City 1–0 Arsenal in the final of the FA Cup.  This victory remains the only time the competition has been won by a club outside England.

New York Yankees defeats Pittsburgh Pirates to win the 1927 World Series by 4 games to 0.  In Baseball Babe Ruth hits 60 home runs, setting a major league record.The Yankees won a then-league record 110 games  and are considered by many to be the greatest team in the history of baseball.

In one of the most famous fights in boxing history, Gene Tunney successfully defends his World Heavyweight Championship in a return bout with Jack Dempsey at Soldier Field, Chicago. Tunney wins in 10 rounds but the fight is remembered as The Battle Of The Long Count after Tunney was knocked down for 13 seconds in the 7th round, the count being delayed because Dempsey did not retire to a neutral corner.

In horse racing Bobby Lewis rides his fourth Melbourne Cup winner.
The inaugural Champion Hurdle is run and won by Blaris.

The first women’s National Cross country championships is held.

Muriel Gunn of Great Britain sets a world long jump record of 18 feet 3 1/2 inches.

Oldham appear in their fourth successive Rugby League Challenge Cup final.

A small diameter track for speedway is opened at Droylsden, Manchester.  The first meeting  in Britain is held at Camberley Heath.

The first cross Channel swim by an English woman is made by Mercedes Gleitze in fifteen hours fifteen minutes.

Johnny Weissmuller sets world swimming records.

The Harlem Globetrotters play their first basketball game.

Tom Newman wins his sixth world professional billiards title.

Britain win the world four man bobsleigh title.

Les Ames makes a record 127 dismissals as wicketkeeper in the English cricket season.

The first world cycling road race championship is won by Alfredo Binda of Italy.

The first world table tennis championships are held.  Hungary win the Swaythling Cup for the champion team.

Wentworth Gore makes his 36th appearance at Wimbledon since 1888.

Starting blocks for athletes are patented by George Bresnahan in the US.

The first BBC commentary is made by Captain Wakeham on the England v Wales rugby match at Twickenham.  He also does the first football commentary on Arsenal v Sheffield United at Highbury.

The first Mille Miglia motor race is won by Minoia and Mirandi.

Inaugural World Snooker Championship is won by Joe Davis who defeats Tom Dennis 20–11

Rugby Fives Association founded at the home of Dr.Edgar Cyriax, Welbeck Street, London.

Walter Hagen wins his fourth successive US PGA golf title and his fifth in total.

The Ryder Cup is instituted between the USA and Great Britain at golf.  USA win by 9 1/2 to 2 1/2.

The greyhound Derby is instituted.


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World Sports Hall of Fame 1948: Henry Armstrong, Dhyan Chand, Don Hutson and Tazio Nuvolari

My choices for the World Sports Hall of Fame for 1948 are

Henry Armstrong (USA – Boxing): – the first boxer to hold three world titles simultaneously. He won the world flyweight title in 1937 and the next year added the welterweight and lightweight crowns. He held these until 1940 when he lost the welterweight title and a rematch. He briefly retired but resumed his career and fought until 1945, eventually finishing with a record of 22 wins from his 26 world title fights and 152 wins in total.

Dhyan Chand( India – Hockey): widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time. He won three Olympic gold medals in the all conquering Indian team. These came in 1928, 1932 and 1936 culminating in a six goal haul in the 1936 Final which India won 8-1. He was still prolific in the post-war years but declined selection for the 1948 Games. He played as a centre forward but was more than a goal scorer with brilliant ball control and skills also creating numerous goals for the team.,

Don Hutson (USA – American Football): The first great wide receiver in the sport.  He caught  a record one hundred touchdown passes in a career that lasted from  1935 to 1945 with the Green Bay Packers.  His totals of 488 receptions for 7991 yards were also records for the NFL which all remained unsurpassed until the 1980s.  He led the league in eight years of his eleven.  His speed was a great asset in making him one of the finest players ever.

Tazio Nuvolari (Italy – Motor Racing): one of the greatest names in the sport in the years before World War Two.  There wasn’t an official championship but Grand Prix races were held and he won many throughout the 1930s.  He was a great sports car driver as well, winning Le Mans in 1933 and the Mille Miglia in 1930 and 1933.  He started as a motorcyclist in the 1920s and was Italian champion at 500cc. He continued his career after the war with a final notable performance when second in the 1947 Mille Miglia.


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