Badminton has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Often considered a pastime and inferior to the more glamorous tennis, the sport has grown to become the 2nd most participated in the world. This rise can partly be attributed to the rise of international superstars like Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Carolina Marin and Viktor Axelsen.
These stars have ensured that their constant success is followed by fans both from their countries and overseas.
However, one telling factor that has contributed to its growth is the improved technology along with the physicality of the sport. The game has evolved into a blink-and-miss event, with powerful smashes dominating rallies. Though the speeds of smashes have always been incredible, the latest introduction of Hawk-Eye has now allowed us to truly appreciate their ferocity. Compare the fastest hits of badminton to tennis, and the difference is scary.
While Sam Groth holds the record of the fastest recorded serve at 263.4 km/h in Tennis, the fastest recorded badminton hit is 493 km/h. Tan Boon Heong of Malaysia clocked this astonishing speed during a special experiment. Though outside of competition, this is a pointer to the mind-blowing speeds badminton players can generate. Let us take a look at the fastest competition smashes, which are also equally incredible.
#5 Parupalli Kashyap - 401 kmph
The Indian shuttler, once the country's brightest prospect in men's singles, has been plagued by injuries in recent time. Multiple setbacks forced him to miss the 2016 Rio Olympics and suffer a drop in rankings.
During his peak, however, the Hyderabad lad could match up to even the best. Some of his best achievements include winning the 2014 Commonwealth Games and becoming the first Indian male player to reach the quarter-finals of the Olympics, doing so in 2012.The Japan Open Superseries in 2015 was one of the last tournaments Kashyap played when fully fit.
The 31-year old beat 3rd seed K.Srikanth on his way to the last-eight before falling to the 6th seed Chou Tien-Chen. It was during this tournament that Kashyap produced a cracker of a smash, clocking 401 kmph. Lin Dan had also produced a smash of the same speed during the same tournament.
#4 Viktor Axelsen - 404 kmph
The young Dane has taken huge strides in the world of badminton. Still 23 years old, Axelsen is the current men's singles World Champion and 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medalist. He has quickly overtaken compatriot Jan O Jorgensen as the successor to the legendary Peter Gade that Denmark has been waiting for.
Axelsen is popular for his quick-thinking, court coverage and trick-shots. His smashes are also equally powerful, however, and he often summons them to finish rallies. One such moment came at the 2015 Japan Open (yes, the same tournament). The Dane produced a 404 kmph smash that left everyone stunned. Though Axelsen lost in the final of the competition to Lin Dan, he made sure he beat the Chinese in one aspect.
#3 Jan O Jorgensen - 407 kmph
The 31-year old has been near the top of the rankings for quite some time now, and he is also close to the best for the fastest smash. Despite going deep into most of the tournaments he enters, Jorgensen has often flattered to deceive. He frequently fails in matches he is expected to win or commits the same fatal mistakes.
During one such performance in the Malaysia Open Superseries Premier in 2016, Jorgensen, famous for his powerful shots and quick wrists, produced a cracking shot against Lee Chong Wei in the semi-finals.
His smash, clocked at 407 kmph, takes the 3rd place on the list. The Dane eventually lost to Lee Chong Wei, who he has managed to beat only once.
#2 Lee Chong Wei - 408 kmph
Considered one of the greatest to have stepped onto a badminton court, Lee Chong Wei has given his fans many memories to cherish. Despite never winning a World Championship or an Olympic gold, the Malaysian's legacy is unmatched.
His image, however, was tarnished in 2014 when he was convicted of doping. The 34-year-old had to miss several months of action, suffering a hit in rankings and match practice. Making a comeback in 2015, Chong Wei was looking to prove himself. He was unseeded at the 2015 Hong Kong Open.
The three-time Olympics silver medalist was determined to prove himself, however, and went on to win the tournament. During this run, he produced one of his iconic smashes, hitting the shuttle at 408 kmph.
#1 Mads Pieler Kolding - 426 kmph
Clearly, there is a huge gulf between No.1 and 2 on this list. Interestingly, Kolding is the only doubles player in the top 5. A member of the Danish team that won the 2016 Thomas Cup, Kolding is one of the tallest badminton players as well, at 6feet 8inches.
Though it might be surprising to see a relatively less popular and swashbuckling figure topping the list, it is no surprise that a doubles player does it. Doubles in badminton has evolved into a very fast-paced and attacking event. Rallies are often marked by one side hitting massive smashes, with the other pair giving their all to return them. It is worth noting that Tan Boon Heong is also a doubles player. Kolding produced a stunner at 426 kmph during the 2017 edition of the Premier Badminton League(PBL). Representing the Chennai Smashers against Mumbai Rockets to take his opponents by surprise and end the 40-shot rally.
The PBL is not a BWF recognised event, and hence the record may not enter the official record books of the governing body.