Rio 2016: Badminton ones to watch

Chinese athletes achieved a clean sweep of gold medals in London 2012's five badminton events known as the ‘great haul of China’. As most of the victorious players compete in Rio to defend their crowns, Sam Price lists the leading contenders

The history maker

The headline act in this year’s badminton events is undoubtedly Lin Dan. Already the only man to retain his Olympic singles title, the Chinese superstar will be chasing an historic third consecutive gold medal in Rio. Standing in his way is long-term rival Lee Chong Wei, who sat inconsolable on the ground after losing the epic gold medal match in London, but who has bounced back to occupy the No.1 spot in the world rankings. A fascinating rematch may be in store.

Spanish sensation

Only an estimated 7,000 people play badminton in Spain, but one of that number, Carolina Marín, has an outstanding chance of delivering the country a first Olympic medal in the sport. Nicknamed the ‘accidental shuttler’ due to her unlikely – and unplanned – route into badminton, the 23-year-old has completed an even unlikelier ascent to become a double world champion and the only non-Asian player inside the world’s top 10. Key rivals in Rio will include defending champion Li Xuerui and Indian superstar Saina Nehwal.

Doubles jeopardy

Danish doubles pairing Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen won a silver medal at London 2012, but their prospects of attempting to add to their haul in Rio looked remote earlier this year. In February, while in Russia for the European Team Championships, Mogensen suffered an intracranial aneurysm and underwent emergency brain surgery. Many would have abandoned their Olympic dreams but, after taking four months off the circuit to recover from the life-threatening condition, Mogensen reunited with Boe at the Indonesia Open to earn an Olympic place. There would be no more deserving medallist.

Twin assault

Studying the opposition is a key part of badminton, but trying to work out a strategy against Chinese duo Luo Ying and Luo Yu will be a tricky assignment. The pair are identical twins with a similar style of play, and admit that even their team-mates struggle to tell them apart. Triumphant at the 2015 BWF Superseries Finals in Dubai, the sisters will be looking to make their presence felt on their Olympic debuts.

Perfect match

Good chemistry is essential in doubles, as Great Britain’s Chris and Gabby Adcock will testify. The couple occupied the same side of the court as teenagers, but since getting married in 2013 their form has reached new heights. Success at the 2015 BWF World Superseries Finals will have given them maximum confidence on the road to Rio, and an Olympic medal in the mixed doubles looks within their grasp.