The Olympics have been the cradle of a lot of sporting drama over the decades, and badminton majorly contributes to that end. The multi-sporting extravaganza has seen as many as 69 nations flocking to participate in badminton events so far. Yet, a clear pattern of dominance can easily be traced, with Asian countries like China, Indonesia and South Korea exercising an unwavering stronghold over the sport.
A fairly recent inclusion at the Olympics, badminton became a part of the quadrennial showdown at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Distributed over a series of 5 events, namely - Men's Singles, Men's Doubles, Women's Singles, Women's Doubles and finally, Mixed Doubles - badminton has been the hotbed of intense racquet action.
With the Tokyo Olympics slated to begin on July 23rd, badminton will once again be a sport to watch out for. Medal-favourite countries like China, Indonesia and Japan have readied formidable contingents to head to Tokyo and firm up their domineering hold as well.
What's the reason behind the Asian dominance at the Olympics?
Badminton has always had a certain Asian leaning, with a majority of the top players hailing specifically from the world's largest continent. The core reason behind this phenomenon is the popularity of the sport and the consequent government support in these nations.
Badminton is practically the national sport of China and Indonesia who have long since called the shots. Producing a string of talented players - Alan Budikusuma and Susi Susanti to Taufik Hidayat and the legendary Lin Dan, these Asian countries have played an instrumental role in shaping up the sport.
Closer to home, India has seen a surge in badminton talent, with Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu being its poster girls. With 2 Olympic medals to credit - a glistening bronze (2012 London Olympics) for Nehwal and a glittering silver (2016 Rio Olympics) for Sindhu, India has also entered the sport's Olympic history pages.
Here's taking a look at the nations who have dominated at the Olympics:
#5 Malaysia - 8 medals; 6 Silver, 2 Bronze
As annoyingly painful as it is, Malaysia, despite their brilliance and command over the sport, lacks a gold medal at the Olympics. With a total of 8 medals to their credit, the absence of the yellow metal is glaring for the Malaysians.
Led by Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei, who has been a 3-time silver medalist at the Games, this nation has always been so-close-yet-so-far to success. Chong Wei's losses have been heart-breaking given the fact that he is considered to be one of the greatest players ever. Currently, Lee Zii Jia, the reigning All England Open champion, is aiming to follow in the path of Chong Wei and undo the silver jinx.
#4 Denmark - 8 medals; 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 4 Bronze
The only European nation to feature on this list, Denmark has also been surprisingly consistent in producing legendary shuttlers. The likes of Poul Erik Hoyer-Larsen, Peter Gade and Mathias Boe have contributed to the success of the sport in the country.
As far as the Olympics are concerned, Denmark has bagged 8 medals so far, tasting success mostly in the doubles events. However, things have ruffled up over the past few years with the arrival of Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen on the scene.
Heading to Tokyo, World No. 2 Axelsen will be seeking to upgrade his 2016 bronze medal, while World No. 3 Antonsen will be debuting with hopes of winning a gold medal.
#3 South Korea - 19 medals; 6 Gold, 7 Silver, 6 Bronze
The South Koreans have been holding the fortress quite tightly at the Olympics, especially in the doubles section. Tied for second on the medal tally with Indonesia, South Korea also boasts 19 medals to their credit.
More than anything, South Korea's dominance in the doubles is exceptional and is accountable for the 16 medals they have collected in it so far. The sport has been graced by legends like Kim Moon-soo, Park Joo-bong, Gil Young-ah and Kim Dong-moon.
Currently, South Korea's hopes are pinned on 19-year-old An Se-young, women's doubles duo of Kim So-yeong - Kong Hee-yong, and mixed doubles pair of Seo Seung-jae - Chae Yu-jung, as they head to Tokyo.
#2 Indonesia - 19 medals; 7 Gold, 6 Silver, 6 Bronze
Occupying the second spot on the medal tally, Indonesia has had a rich history in the Olympics. Interestingly, Indonesia has always returned with a medal from the Games in badminton, with the only exception being 2012. Led by legends like Alan Budikusuma, Ardy Wiranata, Susi Susanti and Taufik Hidayat, Indonesia has solidified its dominance at the Olympics.
With 19 medals in their bag already, Indonesia will be looking to keep with the tradition going and get a few more in Tokyo. World No. 5 Antony Ginting and World No. 7 Jonatan Christie will be Indonesia's hopes at the upcoming Olympics.
#1 China - 41 medals; 18 Gold, 8 Silver, 15 Bronze
It is no wonder that badminton would often be synonymously known as the sport of the Chinese, judging by this stat alone. With a whopping 41 medals to their credit, 18 of which are gold, 8 silver and 15 bronze, China's presence in badminton has been all encompassing.
China has consistently produced multi-medalling Olympic legends like Gao Ling, Fu Haifeng, Ge Fei, Zhang Nin and Lin Dan. Historically, it has been tough to deny a medal to China and the 2012 London Games saw a clean sweep by the Chinese, who won each of the five titles.
With staggering dominance, the Chinese contingent will head to Tokyo with Chen Long seeking to defend his gold medal. Giving him company will also be Shi Yuqi and Chen Yufei, who are also vying to bag medals at the upcoming Olympics.