Like so many sports that have come to be played worldwide, the game of badminton was invented, or at least developed and codified into a recognisable form, by Victorian gentlemen – in this case officers of Her Majesty’s army stationed in India. Originally known as ‘shuttlecocks and battledores’ and played on a court shaped like an hourglass, its first rules were published in Poona around 1870. It was three years later when guests of the Duke of Beaufort at his stately home, Badminton House in Gloucestershire, took up the challenge of thwacking a goose-feathered cork-and-leather shuttle with a strung wooden racquet over a net slung up across one of the ducal halls – and the name stuck.

Hastings Junior Badminton Club at Helenswood
PICTURE: David Fletcher

All-England badminton tournaments were effectively world championships up to the Second World War. But in the second half of the twentieth century the balance of power in the game swung firmly back to its Asian origins. Since 1992, when it first became an Olympic sport, 44 out of 48 gold medals over all five events – men’s and women’s singles; men’s, women’s and mixed doubles – have been reserved to competitors from one of three nations: China, Indonesia and South Korea. 

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