In compiling this list of the greatest badminton players, our staff used records at the Olympics and world championships as the most important metric. Achievements in singles were given a higher value than in doubles or mixed doubles. The five finalists were Lin Dan, Li Lingwei, Zhang Ning, Yang Yang and Taufik Hidayat.
1. Lin Dan
The title of the Greatest in any sport is always a subject of heated debate, mainly because there is no clear-cut favorite. This is not the case in badminton, as Lin Dan is and has been head and shoulder above all the greats in badminton history. His singles achievements are simply incredible. Lin won two Olympic golds, five world titles, six All-England titles, two World Cups and four Asian Championships. He also helped China win multiple Thomas/Sudirman Cup. To give a better context to his achievements, no other male player in history has won more than two world titles and none has earned more than one Olympic gold. Most impressively, he accomplished these feats in an era of great players - Taufik Hidayat, Lee Chong Wei, Chen Long and Peter Gade. One can't accuse him of dominating against inferior players. Lin is truly an one-in-a-century player.
2. Li Lingwei
If Lin Dan was the greatest singles player of all time, Li Lingwei was certainly the most rounded player ever. The lady from Lishui went against the conventional wisdom that a badminton player can't be both a great singles player and a top doubles player. She achieved a career golden double at many major competitions. Li accomplished this at the world championships (2 singles and 1 doubles), at the world cups (4 singles, 3 doubles) and at the prestigious All-England Open (2 singles, 1 doubles). She also won the now defunct World Grand Prix finals four times. Her record would have been even more impressive, if not for her rivalry with another badminton great Han Aiping. Together with Han, they dominated badminton in the 1980s and helped China win many team championships. The only missing piece on her resume was an Olympic title, but the sport was not added to the Olympics until 1992.
3. Zhang Ning
In a sport defined by one's performance at the Olympics, the lady from Jinzhou made her name on the world's biggest stage. A late bloomer, Zhang Ning is the only female player in history to win two Olympic gold medals (also consecutively). The 2008 gold-medal effort was particularly noteworthy as it came in her homeland. Winning this title on home soil was the life goal of many top Chinese female players, but it was Ning who took the ultimate prize. She was also a world champion and reached no. 1 in the world rankings.
4. Yang Yang
The shuttler from Nanjing is one of only three male players in history to have won the world championship twice and consecutively. This feat came at a time when the world championship was still the most important competition in badminton. Like his female counterparts Li Lingwei and Han Aiping, Yang missed out on an opportunity to win an Olympic gold medal, as he retired one year before badminton made its Olympic debut in Barcelona. When badminton was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Games, he easily won the gold medal. Even after his retirement from the sport, his legacy was still clearly felt. Yang coached Malaysia to a Thomas Cup victory in 1992 -- the first in 25 years.
5. Taufik Hidayat
The great Indonesian badminton player suffered from the fact he played in the era of Lin Dan, who won nearly every major competition in the sport. Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia is another casualty of Lin's dominance. Despite that, Hidayat managed to achieve every important feat in competitive badminton. The Indonesian was a world champion, an Olympic gold medalist and a two-time Asian Games titlist. He also won six national championships. Not many players in history have achieved even one of these feats.
~Last updated August 20, 2016