For the longest time, China was dominating the world of badminton ruthlessly. In the 2012 London Olympics, three out of the four semi-finalists in the women's singles category were Chinese. The men's singles title at the Summer Games has stayed with China since 2008 when Lin Dan won his first gold.
In the women's singles category, Carolina Marin took the title last time, signalling the start of a new era in women's badminton – one that will see many nationalities and not just China playing a leading role.
As things stand today, the criticism of badminton as a one-nation sport has disappeared. In fact, China has been battling hard in the last couple of years to remain relevant in singles competition. Luckily for them, two good players, one each in men's and women's singles, have appeared.
So, keeping in mind all the above, let's look at the five biggest contenders for gold in next year's Olympcs.
The last two years have seen Kento Momota create a vice-like grip on men's singles badminton. He has been winning World Tour title after World Tour title and has folded up two World Championships and two Asian Championships into his bag as well. A patient player who likes to engage in long rallies, Momota has proven that no one can out-run him on the court. In 2020, when he is on home soil, the 25-year old would be very hard to stop.
Tai Tzu Ying
Without a shadow of doubt, the most skilful player in the sport, Tai Tzu Ying is a magician with the racket. Many of the shots she plays are scintillating and displays badminton at its aesthetic best. She too has been very successful over the last three years but, except for Asian Games and Asian Championships, has not been able to win big events. 2020 would be her opportunity to correct that.
The most physically intense player in the circuit, Carolina Marin is known for her fast-paced and powerful play. She already has three World titles in her kitty and an Olympic Gold. This year, she suffered a horrible injury but made a stunning comeback to win the China Open. When she is playing at her best, her force is nearly impossible to stop.
It is hard to understand why but PV Sindhu has the uncanny ability to rise to the top in every major tournament. She was the losing finalist in Rio and has played in all three World Championship finals since then. Her jinx of losing in big finals ended with the 2018 World Tour finals. In the 2019 World Championships, she unleashed a deadly smash to finally grab the top prize. She is bound to be a top competitor in Tokyo.
Chen Yu Fei
Just when everyone thought China is fading away in women's singles badminton, up came Chen Yu Fei to bring her country back into focus in this division. Her breakthrough tournament was the 2018 Fuzhou China Open – a Super 1000 event which she won. She also triumphed in the 2019 All England Championships and captured two key titles towards the end of 2019, proving that she is back to her best. She is probably China's best hope of gold in singles badminton.