South Korea has never been behind when it comes to producing badminton talent. But when you look at the best coming from the country you’ll notice one thing — doubles supremacy. Nearly all of the country’s best badminton players excelled in doubles, from Kim Dong-Moon to the great Park Joo-Bong. Except for Ra Kyung-Min, only one other player rose to greatness as a singles badminton player — her name is Bang Soo-Hyun!
Bang Soo-Hyun was one of the most consistent players in the 90s, capturing multiple International Badminton Federation (IBF) titles and other international accolades. She achieved excellence in the women’s singles division by being an Olympic gold medalist and All England titleholder. Also among her accolades are two World Championship medals and a five-year streak of chalking up podium finishes.
Throughout her career, Bang Soo-Hyun was in several storied rivalries. But the one she’s famous for is her rivalry with Indonesian legend, Susi Susanti. For the overwhelming majority of her career, Bang Soo-Hyun competed exclusively in the women’s singles division, making her the only other South Korean player to make a name in the division. Bang Soo-Hyun called time on her career in 1996 after her victory at the 1996 Olympics. In 2019, she joined other badminton greats by being inducted into the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Hall of Fame.
In short, Bang Soo-Hyun paved the way for many of today’s South Korean greats. Join me as we celebrate and revisit the illustrious career of this South Korean women’s singles giant!
Early Badminton Career
Bang Soo-Hyun was born on September 13, 1972, in Seoul, South Korea. Like most of South Korea’s greatest players, she was introduced to badminton at a young age. By the time she reached her teenage years, she developed an uncanny ability to pair explosiveness with power — a playing style she’d be famous for later in her career.
She debuted internationally at the age of 16. Her first tournament was the 1988 Welsh International where she competed in the women’s singles event. In her debut outing, she dominated the event, winning gold. It was her first gold medal at an international competition!
When she turned 17, she debuted at the 1989 Lotto Trophy in Belgium. There, she competed in the women’s singles and doubles events.
In the women’s singles event, Bang Soo-Hyun defeated Germany’s Katrin Schmidt in a match that went to a third game. Advancing as far as the quarterfinals. Bang Soo-Hyun noticeably performed better as a singles player.
In the quarterfinals, she faced Christine Gandrup. Just like in their doubles encounter at the tournament, Bang Soo-Hyun lost to her Swedish opponent.
The loss at the 1989 Lotto Trophy did little to discourage the young Bang Soo-Hyun. She would compete in several other tournaments in 1989, particularly in the Swiss Open, Thailand Open, and China Open. Bang Soo-Hyun even qualified to participate in her first All England Open.
Of all her 1989 tournaments, her best result was at the 1989 Swiss Open. She played in the women’s singles and doubles events, where she was paired again with Eun Hee-Kwon. In both events, Bang Soo-Hyun made it as far as the semi-finals.
After a dismal performance at the 1989 China Open, Bang Soo-Hyun took a two-year sabbatical. She returned as a senior player in 1991, just in time for the 1991 Korea Open.
Bang Soo-Hyun debuted as a senior player on home soil. At the 1991 Korea Open, Bang Soo-Hyun competed in the women’s singles and doubles events. For the doubles event, she partnered with Hye Joo-Shon. Her debut didn’t get off on the best of starts as she tasted elimination early in both the singles and doubles events.
Despite a lackluster debut, Bang Soo-Hyun began to establish consistency in 1991. At the 1991 Asian Badminton Championships, Bang Soo-Hyun advanced to the quarterfinals. She duplicated her performance and finished at the 1991 Swedish Open. Then, she advanced as far as the semifinals at the 1991 Malaysia Open, holding her own against Indonesia’s Sarwendah Kusumawardhani.
After the 1991 Malaysia Open, Bang Soo-Hyun competed solely in the women’s singles event at the 1991 Indonesia Open. Dominating the event until the semis, Bang Soo-Hyun faced a player who’d be her rival for much of her career — Susi Susanti. The young and in-form Susanti made short work of Bang Soo-Hyun, winning in straight sets.
Bang Soo-Hyun faced Susi Susanti again at the 1991 Thailand Open, but the talented Indonesian player once again got the better of Bang Soo-Hyun.
Things started looking up for Bang Soo-Hyun’s career later that year. At the 1991 Asian Badminton Cup, Bang Soo-Hyun put on a dominant performance to advance to the finals. Awaiting her in the finals was China’s Tang Jiuhong. The two players won one game each, forcing the match into a third game. The third game went the way of Tang. However, by making it to the finals for the first time in her senior career, Bang Soo-Hyun took home silver.
The podium finish would set the tone for her 1992 run.
1992 — Putting the Badminton World on Notice
Bang Soo-Hyun’s career picked up in 1992. She began her 1992 campaign at the 1992 Korea Open. Bang Soo-Hyun advanced as far as the finals, taking home the runner-up position after her match against Tang Jiuhong.
After the Korea Open, Bang Soo-Hyun competed in her second All England. Advancing to the finals, she faced Tang Jiuhong again. The final match between the two players had the audience on the edge of their seats, with both players dominantly winning a game.
Forcing the match into a match-deciding third game, Bang Soo-Hyun and Tang Jiuhong fought tooth and nail. Tang Jiuhong emerged victorious, meaning that Bang Soo-Hyun walked away with silver.
After the 1992 All England, Bang Soo-Hyun competed in her first Olympics. She competed in the women’s singles event of the 1992 Olympics and was highlighted as one of the main players to watch at the tournament.
Bang Soo-Hyun lived up to the hype as she dispatched high-level opponents left and right at the tournament. Advancing to the finals, Bang Soo-Hyun faced Susi Susanti in a nail-biting match.
In the third game, Bang Soo-Hyun came up short against the Indonesian rising star. Nevertheless, Bang Soo-Hyun took home her first Olympic medal.
Bang Soo-Hyun faced her Indonesian rival again after the Olympics. The two faced off in the finals of the 1992 Hong Kong Open. With Susi Susanti leading Bang Soo-Hyun in wins, the former was the favorite to win the match. However, a more dominant Bang Soo-Hyun showed up.
The match began as expected — with Susi Susanti winning the first game. However, Bang Soo-Hyun rallied to win the second game 11 to 6. With the third game in the balance, Bang Soo-Hyun pulled out all the stops to prevent Susanti from winning.
In the end, Bang Soo-Hyun defeated her rival, scoring an upset and winning her first title!
On the Podium at the Badminton World Cup
The Badminton World Cup hosts many of the world’s best shuttlers. It’s one of the major competitive badminton tournaments, so those who win a place on the podium cement their reputations.
Bang Soo-Hyun’s first outing at the World Cup was in 1992. At the 1992 Badminton World Cup, Bang Soo-Hyun made it as far as the semi-finals. Here, she faced China’s Huang Hua in a three-game match that could have gone either way.
Bang Soo-Hyun’s performance at the tournament earned her a bronze medal. While this accomplishment was impressive in itself, Bang Soo-Hyun wasn’t satisfied.
She aimed to redeem herself at the 1994 Badminton World Cup in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This time, she made it to the finals to face her rival, Susi Susanti. Susanti emerged victorious, but Bang Soo-Hyun won a silver medal and the admiration of everyone else at the tournament.
Later that year, Bang Soo-Hyun played at the 1994 Asian Games. Here, she successfully redeemed herself by beating Japan’s Hisako Mizuki in straight sets in the final. The victory gave Bang much-needed redemption and an Asian Games gold medal!
Dominating the Korea Open
One of Bang Soo-Hyun’s favorite hunting grounds was the Korea Open, where she was a podium mainstay for five consecutive years! She was runner-up in two editions and the titleholder for three.
The first time Bang Soo-Hyun won the Korea Open was in 1993 when she defeated Susi Susanti in the finals. Bang Soo-Hyun didn’t just defeat her rival — she won straight sets to win the title!
Bang Soo-Hyun defended her women’s singles title at the 1994 Korea Open. Advancing to the finals, Bang Soo-Hyun faced her compatriot, Kim Ji-Hyun. In straight sets, Bang Soo-Hyun won the match, defending her singles title.
A narrow loss to Susi Susanti at the 1995 Korea Open punctured Bang Soo-Hyun’s streak at the tournament. Nevertheless, Bang Soo-Hyun redeemed herself at the 1996 Korea Open by defeating China’s Yao Yan for the gold.
All England Finishes
Bang Soo-Hyun played at the All England five times during her career. Her first was in 1989 when she failed to advance past the round of 16 stages. Bang Soo-Hyun made her second All England appearance two years later, but she failed to turn in a podium-worthy finish in that one as well.
The first time Bang Soo-Hyun won an All England medal was in 1992. At the 1992 All England, Bang Soo-Hyun dominated the women’s singles tournament, advancing to the finals to face Tang Jiuhong. The match was close as both players forced it into a third game. Bang Soo-Hyun came up short in the third game, walking away from the tournament with a silver medal.
The following year, Bang Soo-Hyun competed at the All England again. In the finals of the 1993 All England, Bang Soo-Hyun faced Susi Susanti. The match was a nail-biting spectacle of skill and determination as both players won a game each. The third match went Susi Susanti’s way. The result meant that Bang Soo-Hyun took home silver again.
Bang Soo-Hyun didn’t compete at the All England for two years. She returned in 1996, determined to bring home her first All England title.
At the 1996 All-England, Bang Soo-Hyun advanced to the finals to face China’s Ye Zhaoying. Early on, Bang Soo-Hyun established dominance by winning the first game 11 to 1. Bang was just as dominant in the second game as she dispatched Ye Zhaoying 11 to 1. The straight-set victory gave Bang Soo-Hyun her first All England title in what would be her final outing at the oldest badminton tournament.
Bang Soo-Hyun represented South Korea in the Olympics twice. In both editions, she played in the women’s singles event. And let’s not forget that Bang Soo-Hyun medalled in both editions!
At the 1992 Olympics, Bang Soo-Hyun won her first Olympic medal by advancing to the finals. Losing to Susi Susanti, Bang Soo-Hyun took home silver.
While the achievement was impressive in its own right, it’s Bang’s second Olympic outing that truly cemented her greatness. Bang Soo-Hyun competed again at the 1996 Olympics. Like her Olympic debut, she breezed to the finals. Standing between her and the Olympic gold was Indonesia’s Mia Audina.
The two had faced off several times in the past, with Bang Soo-Hyun winning all encounters. Bang Soo-Hyun established dominance early, winning the first game 11 to 6. Bang duplicated her first-game finish and quickly defeated Audina in the second game.
In straight sets, Bang Soo-Hyun got her sixth win against Mia Audina and her first Olympic Gold Medal!
Retirement and Hall of Fame Induction
Bang Soo-Hyun’s final year was 1996. During this year, she won her third Korea open title, the All England, and the Olympics. After the 1996 Olympics, Bang Soo-Hyun announced her retirement.
In 2019, the Badminton Korea Association (BKA) announced Bang Soo-Hyun’s induction into the BWF Hall of Fame. Her Hall of Fame Induction was special because she became the first South Korean singles player to join the Hall of Fame.
Going Out on Top
Bang Soo-Hyun didn’t have the best of starts, but when you look at the entirety of her career, you’ll learn several things. First, you’ll find a player who exemplifies the importance of establishing consistency. By recognizing this, you get a sense of what every win may have meant to her.
As she built up her career, Bang Soo-Hyun rose to greatness. It was only fitting that she retired while she was on top.
Ultimately, her career teaches us that it doesn’t matter how you start. What counts is how you go out. And Bang Soo-Hyun went out with a bang!
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