Before Badminton House, there was poona. Before poona, there was jeu de volant. Before that, battledore and shuttlecock, and, before that, Ti Jian Zi. It's not easy tracking the family lineage of the sport now known as badminton.
As far back as the 5th century BC, the Chinese were playing Ti Jian Zi, or shuttle-kicking, a game played with the feet. The shuttlecock was there, but it remains unclear whether it led to the game of battledore and shuttlecock that arose about five centuries later in China, Japan, India and Greece. The battledores were the early versions of today's racquets. By the 1600s, battledore and shuttlecock had developed into a popular children's game. It soon became a favourite pastime of the noble and leisure classes of many European countries, becoming known as jeu de volant on the Continent.
In India, a game closer to modern badminton, poona, had evolved by the mid-19th century. While British army officers stationed there were learning the game, the Duke of Beauford was introducing it to royal society at his country estate, Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England. Within four years, the Bath Badminton Club had formed, and a new version of the game played there laid the basis for today's rules. The game remained a genteel affair for society's elite until the end of the century. Then, as badminton associations formed in England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and France, a more vigorous game began to spread.
The International Badminton Federation (IBF) was born in 1934, with a membership of nine countries ranging from the Netherlands to Canada, and with India, Australia and the United States joining soon after. The Asians were ready and waiting to dominate when the game came back to them. Since 1934, China and Indonesia have won 70 per cent of all IBF titles even with 131 countries now belonging to the federation.
The game reached the Olympic stage as a demonstration sport at the 1972 Munich Games. It returned as an exhibition sport in Seoul in 1988, then was accepted to full medal status in 1992 at Barcelona. By then, it was too late for great players such as China's Li Lingwei and Han Aiping. During the 1980s, they had won six women's World Cups, six Grand Prix singles titles and 63 championships between them. It also was too late for Denmark's legendary Morten Frost, who won more than 70 major men's titles during the '80s, not to mention other great players of the game such as China's Han Jian, Yang Yang, Zhao Jianhua, Xiong Guobao, Indonesia's Icuk Sugiato, Lim Siew King, Malaysia's Misbun Sidek. Nonetheless, they had shown the way for their compatriots. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, China tied for the medal lead as Asian athletes won 14 of the 15 medals. The only non-Asian was another Dane, Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen, who shocked the field with a gold medal in men's singles. After all these years, badminton probably is not far removed from its ancient predecessors, nor from the game of elite society in the mid-1800s except for the speed of the game. The fastest smash recorded, by Great Britain's Simon Archer, was clocked at 260 kilometres per hour.