Few players can claim a meteoric rise to fame as one of their early achievements. One player has and has done so with a bang — none other than Chinese badminton sensation Chen Yu Fei!
As of the beginning of 2023, Chen Yu Fei is the reigning women’s singles Olympic badminton champion. Winning Olympic gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Chen Yu Fei put on an Olympic finals performance for the books, defeating Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying in a nail-biting three-game match. Leading up to the Olympics, Chen Yu Fei amassed more than 10 titles in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour and one in the BWF Grand Prix circuit. Besides a stellar senior career, Chen Yu Fei boasts an impressive junior career studded with an Asian Junior Championship title and a World Junior Championship title.
To say that China has a jewel in its ranks in Chen Yu Fei would be a gross understatement. She’s on her way to becoming one of the best women’s singles players today. Join me as we take a look at Chen Yu Fei’s meteoric rise to stardom from being one of badminton’s most promising junior players!
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Early Life and Accomplishments
Chen Yu Fei was born on March 1, 1998. She was born in Hangzhou, China, where she spent much of her young life. Chen Yu Fei was an active child — because of her high energy levels, she got in trouble many times.
To channel her energy, her parents introduced her to badminton when she turned six. From there, the rest, as they say, is history.
The young Chen Yu Fei began winning local junior tournaments by age nine. By 2013, she had already played her first international-level junior tournament. She kicked off her junior career at the 2013 Asia Youth Championships. Although she lost in the first round, she didn’t let the loss deter her and played in several other tournaments that year.
In 2014, she won her first junior silver medal at the Asia Youth Championships. There, she advanced as far as the finals, ultimately losing to the young Akane Yamaguchi.
She won another silver medal at the 2014 German Junior. At the tournament, she lost to her compatriot Qin Jinjing in the finals.
Chen won her first medal weeks later at the 2016 Asian Junior Championships after defeating Indonesia’s Georgia Mariska.
Just four months later, she won her first World Junior Championship title at the 2016 World Junior Championships.
Late 2016 to 2020: Senior Debut and Success at the World Tour
Chen Yu Fei had competed in one Grand Prix tournament as a junior player, but in 2016, she debuted as a senior player at the Macau Open. In her first senior Grand Prix outing, she defeated her compatriot Chen Xiao Xin in the finals to win her first Senior title.
After 2016, Chen Yu Fei amassed more experience. By the start of 2018, she had already qualified for the World Tour.
She won her first World Tour title at the 2018 Fuzhou China Open. There, she defeated an in-form Nozomi Okuhara in straight sets.
At the start of 2019, Chen Yu Fei bagged back-to-back titles at the 2019 All England and 2019 Swiss Open. In June, Chen and Okuhara met again in the finals of the 2019 Australian Open. Despite their previous encounter, Chen emerged as the victor.
A month later, Chen won the 2019 Toyota Thailand Open after beating hometown favorite Ratchanok Intanon in the finals. Chen’s wins didn’t stop there as she won the 2019 Fuzhou China Open for the second year in a row.
After the Fuzhou China Open, Chen capped off 2019 with back-to-back title victories. She won the 2019 Hong Kong Open and the 2019 World Tour Finals after defeating Tai Tzu Ying in a one-hour three-game match.
Chen Yu Fei bested Tai Tzu Ying again at the start of 2020. At the 2020 Malaysia Masters, Chen made short work of the Taiwanese shuttler. However, Tai finally got the best of Chen in their meeting weeks later at the 2020 All England.
Tai Tzu Ying and Chen Yu Fei have encountered each other numerous times in their career. Of their meetings, one would be the most storied — their 2020 Olympic Final match.
2020 Tokyo Olympics
After the All England, badminton tournaments came to a screeching halt. No events took place for the entirety of 2020. But on June 7, 2021, the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics pushed through.
At the 2020 Olympics, Chen Yu Fei set her sights on Olympic gold. However, one other player had similar plans — Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying.
Both players dominated their respective groups to reach the finals. In the finals, Chen established dominance early on, taking the first game 21 to 18. However, Tai Tzu Ying rallied to narrowly win the second game 21 to 19.
With the third game in the balance, both players returned rally after rally. However, in the 81st minute of the match, Tai Tzu Ying failed to return Chen’s overhand drop.
The error gave Chen the Olympic victory, much to her delight and her coach’s, as seen in this video.
Signature Moves: Trick Shots and Saves
If you’re wondering what moves Chen Yu Fei has in her arsenal, I can think of two right off the bat — her fantastic trick shots and jaw-dropping saves.
On several occasions, Chen Fu Fei has wowed the audience with an array of behind-the-back and spinning shots. Here is one of her brilliant displays of trickery and dexterity.
Chen is also famous for her amazing court coverage. Her court coverage places her in prime real estate for some of the wildest saves in women’s singles badminton.
Don’t believe me? Check out this BWF compilation of Chen’s court coverage and saves!
What’s Next for Chen Yu Fei?
Chen Yu Fei has raised the bar even higher for the women’s singles division.
Whatever is next for the reigning Olympic champion, I’ll bet it’s as stellar as her 2018 and 2019 World Tour run.
As always, speculation gets you and me nowhere — the best we can do is stay tuned to the matches and rankings!
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