It can take a badminton player a decade or more to make an impact on the badminton world. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a player who has cemented their legendary status in less time. However, one player that achieved greatness in less than a decade is Chinese doubles specialist Ge Fei.
A native of Jiangsu, China, Ge Fei made her mark on the badminton world by being the only women’s doubles player to chalk up an All-England hat-trick. Ge Fei is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a two-time badminton world champion. She also captured 46 Grand Prix titles and four International Badminton Federation (IBF) International titles. She achieved these impressive feats in just six years, becoming one of the most dominant players of the late 90s. She retired in 2001, just after winning two titles at the 2001 Singapore International. She became part of the Badminton World Federation Hall of Fame in 2008, inducted alongside her longtime partner Gu Jun.
They say that good things take time — while that’s true, it’s evident that some take less time than others. Let’s shine the spotlight on one of the fastest favorites to grace the sport!
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Ge Fei was born on October 9, 1975, in Nantong, Jiangsu Province. She began playing badminton at the age of six. Under the influence of her father, she joined the Nantong Amateur Sports School where she spent a year developing her skills.
In 1985, she attended the Jiangsu Sports School. Here, she began playing girls’ doubles with a badminton player who would be her longtime partner — Gu Jun. Together, the young Ge Fei and Gu Jun proved themselves to be promising young players. It wasn’t long until the Jiangsu Provincial Badminton Team took notice.
Ge Fei and Gu Jun qualified to join the provincial team as soon as they turned 12. Three years later, Ge Fei took part in her first tournament.
Ge Fei’s Early Badminton Career
Ge Fei’s impressive performances in various local competitions allowed her to qualify for the 1990 World Junior Championships. The World Championships was Ge Fei’s debut as a junior player. She paired with Peng Xinyong in the girls’ doubles event.
Ge Fei and Peng Xinyong performed impressively, despite losing in the finals. They lost to their compatriots, Liu Hong and Ye Zhaoying, settling for silver in their first tournament outing.
The runner-up finish was a feat in and of itself. After all, it was Ge Fei’s first outing at a major competition. Despite the loss, she went into 1991 confident in her abilities as a badminton player.
Even though she was a junior, Ge Fei entered the 1991 China Open. She partnered with Gu Jun, losing early in the women’s doubles event. The early elimination did little to deter Ge Fei as she returned a year later. Like her first China Open, she and her partner bowed out early and recognized the need for guidance.
After the 1992 China Open, Ge Fei met Jiang Yongyi, a coach for the national team. Noticing Ge Fei’s flair in front of the net, he took her on and guided her and Gu Jun to win the 1992 Chinese National Championships.
Ge Fei’s Early Senior Badminton Career: The Beginning of a Dominant Career
The 1992 Chinese National Championships win gave Ge Fei and Gu Jun the momentum they needed to debut as senior players. In 1993, the pair debuted at the Wimbledon International. Ge Fei and Gu Jun dominated the women’s doubles event, winning gold after defeating the Netherlands’ Erica Van Den Heuvel and Nicole Van Hooren.
In the same tournament, Ge Fei and Gu Jun met each other in the finals of the women’s singles. Ge Fei’s skill was on full display as she defeated her partner in straight sets.
Ge Fei bagged two titles in her first outing as a senior player, and then continued her winning ways at the 1993 Thailand Open. There, she and Gu Jun reached the finals with their compatriots Han Jingna and Li Qi awaiting them. Ge Fei and Gu Jun made short work of their opponents in straight sets.
Ge Fei had a successful 1994 run with her partner, kicking off their year of dominance at the Asian Badminton Championships. Ge Fei and Gu Jun won the women’s doubles event after defeating their compatriots Chen Ying and Wu Yuhong in a close battle of skill.
Two months after the Asian Championships, Ge Fei competed in mixed doubles at the Asian Badminton Cup. Here, she partnered with Liu Jianjun to face Indonesia’s Aryono Miranat and Eliza Nathanael. Ge Fei and Liu Jianjun won by a narrow margin as their Indonesian opponents forced the match into a third game.
The pair’s winning ways didn’t stop there as they chalked up back-to-back title victories at the Malaysian Open and Singapore Open.
Towards the end of 1994, Ge Fei and Gu Jun competed in several other IBF Grand Prix tournaments. In October, the duo played at the 1994 Thailand Open and breezed through the women’s doubles event, per usual. They faced England’s Julie Bradbury and Joanne Goode. The first game was close as Ge Fei and Gu Jun won 15 – 12. They dominated the second game to win the tournament.
Ge Fei and Gu Jun finished 1994 with a dominant performance at the China Open. At the 1994 China Open, the pair faced South Korea’s Jang Hye-Ock and Bang Soo-Hyun. Defeating their South Korean opponents in straight sets, Ge Fei and Gu Jun won the women’s doubles event in front of their hometown fans.
In total, Ge Fei won seven titles since debuting as a senior player. With wins fueling her confidence and momentum further, the sky was the limit for Ge Fei.
Fei’s Olympic Streak
By 1996, Ge Fei had already amassed six Grand Prix titles, including her first All-England title. After winning the 1996 All-England, she was ready for the Olympics.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Fei competed in the women’s doubles event alongside Gu Jun. The pair blasted through the women’s doubles tournament, reaching the finals. Awaiting them was the South Korean powerhouse pair of Gil Young-Ah and Jang Hye-Ock.
Ge Fei and Gu Jun established dominance early on, winning the first game 15 – 5. The second game was no different as they snatched an early ten-point lead. Having defeated their opponents in straight sets, Fei and Jun won their first Olympic title.
After the 1996 Olympics, Ge Fei and Gu Jun chalked up more victories to build momentum for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Ge Fei competed in the mixed and women’s doubles events at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She paired up with Liu Yong for the mixed doubles event, but was eliminated early by the Dutch duo of Chris Bruhl and Erica Van Den Heuvel.
Despite bowing out early in the mixed doubles event, Ge Fei put on an impressive display of skill in the women’s doubles event. With Gu Jun, Fei battled to reach the finals where they faced their compatriots, Huang Nanyan and Yang Wei.
Huang Nanyan and Yang Wei were no match for Fei and Jun’s combination of tactics and speed. Fei and Jun won decisively in straight sets, bagging their second Olympic title.
The All-England Hat-Trick
The All-England Open Badminton Championship is the oldest and one of the most prestigious badminton tournaments. Over the years, it has earned a reputation for being one of the most challenging badminton tournaments to win. With this in mind, winning the All-England once is a feat, and winning it multiple times cements a player’s status in the rankings.
Winning it three times in a row makes a shuttler legendary — just like Ge Fei.
Fei and Jun’s first success at the All-England took place in 1996. At the 1996 All-England, the pair defeated Denmark’s Helene Kirkegaard and Rikke Olsen. Beating their Danish opponents in straight sets, Fei and Jun won their first All-England title.
Fei returned to defend her women’s doubles All-England title in 1997. This time, Fei also competed in the mixed doubles event alongside Liu Yong.
Ge Fei and Liu Yong faced Indonesia’s Tri Kusharjanto and Minarti Timur in the mixed doubles finals of the 1997 All-England. Fei and Yong defeated their opponents, bringing Fei her first mixed doubles All-England title.
For the women’s doubles event, Ge Fei and Gu Jun partnered up, dominating the event. Reaching the finals, Fei and Jun faced the Indonesian team of Eliza Nathanael and Zelin Resiana. Fei and Jun successfully defended their titles, making short work of their Indonesian opponents.
Fei returned to defend her titles at the 1998 All-England. Despite losing the mixed doubles title, Fei won her third women’s All-England title in a row with Gu Jun, defeating South Korea’s Jang Hye-Ock and Ra Kyung-Min.
To date, Ge Fei and Gu Jun are the only women’s pair to win the All-England three consecutive times since 1936.
World Championship Success
Ge Fei was no stranger to the Badminton World Championships, having competed in 1995. She came shy of the title in her first outing after losing to the Danish pair of Jens Eriksen and Helene Kirkegaard.
Fresh off her 1996 Olympic victory, Ge Fei competed at the 1997 Badminton World Championships. She played in the mixed and women’s doubles events, pairing with Liu Yong and Gu Jun, respectively.
Fei and Yong faced the formidable Danish pair of Jens Eriksen and Marlene Thomsen in the finals of the mixed doubles event. The finals match was a nail-biting spectacle as the two teams forced the match into a third tie-breaking game.
Endurance prevailed as Fei and Yong secured a decisive victory in the third game. The win gave Fei her first mixed doubles World Championship title.
In the women’s doubles event, Fei and Jun reached the finals to face their compatriots, Qin Yiyuan and Tang He Tian. Fei and Jun defeated their opponents in straight sets, winning their first women’s doubles World Championship title.
Ge Fei set out to defend her mixed and women’s doubles World titles at the 1999 World Championships. Unfortunately, Ge Fei and Liu Yong came up short in the mixed doubles event after narrowly losing to Denmark’s Rikke Olsen and Michael Sogaard.
For the women’s doubles event, however, Ge Fei and Gu Jun faced the South Korean pair of Chung Jae-Hee and Ra Kyung-Min in the finals. The match was a landslide that went the way of Fei and Jun. Proving too formidable for their South Korean Opponents, Ge Fei and Gu Jun defended their World Championship titles.
In total, Ge Fei has two World Championship titles in women’s doubles and one in the mixed doubles.
Coming out on Top: The 2001 Singapore International and Hall Of Fame Induction
The 2001 Singapore International was the swan song to a dominant career lasting less than a decade. At the Singapore International, Ge Fei had different partners. She paired with Qian Hong for the women’s doubles event and Sun Jun for the mixed doubles event.
Ge Fei and Sun Jun defeated Shen Long and Gao Qian to win the mixed doubles event. Fei also chalked up a title victory in the women’s doubles event after beating Gao Qian and Huang Lipei in the finals.
After her dominant performance at the 2001 Singapore International, Ge Fei hung up her racket and called time to a title-filled badminton career. Seven years later, the BWF inducted Ge Fei and her longtime partner Gu Jun into the Badminton Hall of Fame.
A Short Yet Illustrious Career
The BWF Hall of Fame has the names of greats who have spent decades making their mark on the sport. Ge Fei stands out as one of the few to establish her prowess in such a short time on the courts.
In many ways, Ge Fei’s career resembles a badminton match — quick, yet a marvel to behold.
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