Gu Jun – Dominant in the 90s, Legendary for Generations to Come

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Few badminton players can establish themselves in a short time. Only a handful of shuttlers like Ge Fei have impressed the badminton world in less than a decade. If you need to find another badminton player who has done the same thing, you may not need to look too far. Sharing Ge Fei’s podium on the Hall of Fame is none other than her longtime partner and fellow 90s legend — Gu Jun.

Famous for her string of victories with Ge Fei, Gu Jun earned her spot in the Badminton Hall of Fame for being a two-time Olympic gold medalist. She also boasts more than 30 Grand Prix titles, including four All-England titles. Gu Jun was also a two-time World Champion, a four-time Asian Champion, and a two-time World Cup winner. Gu Jun, alongside Ge Fei, was also famous for her instrumental role in China’s 1999 Uber Cup resurgence. Gu Jun retired after the 2000 Olympics and became part of the Badminton Hall of Fame nearly a decade after her retirement.

Despite being a pro for less than a decade, Gu Jun cemented herself as one of badminton’s greatest doubles players. Join me as I revisit Gu Jun’s short yet legendary badminton career!

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Early Life

Gu Jun was born on January 3, 1975, in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China. Despite being an active youth, Gu Jun didn’t initially take to badminton. Some sources even say that she didn’t show much enthusiasm for her badminton racket when she got it for her seventh birthday.

Luckily, badminton is an interesting sport — a player finds it, or, in Gu Jun’s case, the sport found her. When Gu Jun turned 12, fate brought her face to face with another similarly aged female player — Ge Fei.

Together, they played and honed each other’s skills, drawing the attention of the Jiangsu Provincial Badminton Team. It wasn’t long before the two badminton prodigies joined the provincial team.

There, Gu Jun had the opportunity to sharpen her skills to prepare her for her first major tournament as a junior badminton player.

Jun’s Early Badminton Career

Gu Jun’s first major tournament was the 1991 World Junior Championships in Jakarta. She competed in the girls’ doubles event with Han Jingna — a badminton player who would dominate the women’s singles division years later.

The pair’s speed, skill, and tactical awareness were apparent early on as they made short work of Denmark’s Rikke Olsen and Mette Sørensen in the finals. Winning her first major tournament, Gu Jun had the psychological momentum going into her next competitions.

Gu Jun also entered the 1991 China Open despite being a junior. She competed as both a singles and doubles player. Sadly, she bowed out of the singles event after the 32nd round, losing to Ying Lin.

In the women’s doubles event of the China Open, Gu Jun paired up with Ge Fei for the first time since debuting as a junior. The pair dominated Taiwan’s Chih-Ling Liao and Hui-Min Tsai to advance to round 16. Jun and Fei made it no further after defeat at the hands of Indonesia’s Finarsih and Lili Tampi.

The losses at the China Open didn’t deter the young Gu Jun from competing. In 1992, Gu Jun competed in the girls’ and mixed doubles of the World Junior Championships. She stayed with Han Jingna for the girls’ doubles event and Liang Yongping for the mixed doubles event.

Once again, Gu Jun and Han Jingna dominated the girls’ doubles event. In the finals, they faced their compatriots Tang Yongshu and Yuan Yali. Gu Jun and Han Jingna defeated their opponents in straight sets, winning their second World Junior title together.

Gu Jun and Liang Yongpin’s pairing didn’t yield similar results as they tasted defeat in the mixed doubles semi-finals. Defeated by South Korea’s Kim Dong-Moon and Kim Shin-Young, Jun and Yongpin had to settle for bronze.

Gu Jun’s Senior Debut

1993 was a momentous year for Gu Jun. It was the year she debuted as a senior badminton player and the year she partnered with Ge Fei permanently. It was also in 1993 when she competed in her first major tournament outside Asia — the 1993 Wimbledon International.

At the 1993 Wimbledon International, Gu Jun and Ge Fei not only competed together — they competed against each other. In the women’s singles finals, the two faced each other. In the end, Ge Fei emerged victorious, defeating Gu Jun decisively in straight sets. The loss meant that Gu Jun had to settle for the runner-up position.

Together, however, Gu Jun and Ge Fei were a force to be reckoned with. Dominating the women’s doubles event, Jun and Fei reached the finals where Erica Van Den Heuvel and Nicole Van Hooren were waiting.

Jun and Fei embodied the perfect synergy of strategies. Their mix of talents was a dangerous combination that enabled them to dominate the match. After the second game, Gu Jun and Ge Fei emerged victorious, bagging their first International Badminton Federation (IBF) International title.

Gu Jun and Ge Fei continued winning at the 1993 Thailand Open. The up-and-coming pair breezed through their opponents. In the finals, Gu Jun and Ge Fei faced their compatriots Han Jingna and Li Qi.

The match between the two equally formidable teams went the way of Jun and Fei who won in straight sets. The victory brought Jun and Fei their first Grand Prix title.

Momentum After an Impressive Debut

A string of title wins followed shortly after the duo’s Thailand Open victory. In 1994, Gu Jun and Ge Fei bagged their first Asian Championship title after defeating their compatriots Chen Ying and Wu Yuhong.

After their 1994 Asian Championship outing, Gu Jun and Ge Fei chalked up back-to-back Grand Prix victories at the Malaysia Open, Singapore Open, and Thailand Open.

The pair capped off their 1994 campaign with a bang as they won their first China Open title. At the 1994 China Open, Gu Jun and Ge Fei after defeating South Korea’s Bang Soo-Hyun and Jang Hye-Ock in straight sets.

As soon as 1995 rolled in, Gu Jun and Ge Fei went on a tour on the Grand Prix circuit, amassing titles at the Japan Open, Indonesia Open, and Singapore Open. The duo also defended their Asian Championship title that year after decisively beating Qi Yinyuan and Tang Yongshu.

With titles filling up the duo’s trophy cabinet, Gu Jun and Ge Fei set out to win the final fixture of 1995 — the China Open. At the 1995 China Open, Jun and Fei reached the finals to face the South Korean team of Gil Young-Ah and Jang Hye-Ock.

Both teams played exceptionally well, forcing the match into a third game. Gu Jun and Fe Fei defeated their opponents 15 to 3.

1996: A Successful Year for Gu Jun

By 1996, Gu Jun had already amassed 15 titles. Going into the new year, Gu Jun set her sights on grander victories.

Her conquest for more women’s doubles titles began at the 1996 Chinese Taipei Open. Starting the year off on a high note, Gu Jun and Ge Fei snatched the title from South Korea’s Kim Mee-Hyang and Kim Shin-Young. The South Korean team proved formidable after nearly forcing the match into a third game. Luckily, Jun and Fei scored the decisive 15th point in the second match, winning their first title for the year.

After an impressive showing at the Chinese Taipei Open and the Japan Open, Jun and Fei set their sights on the All England. At the 1996 All England, Gu Jun and Ge Fei made it to the finals. Awaiting them were Denmark’s Helene Kirkegaard and Rikke Olsen.

Gu Jun and Ge Fei dominated the match, winning it in straight sets. The victory gave Gu Jun her first All-England women’s doubles title. After winning gold in the oldest and most prestigious open badminton championship, she and Ge Fei were ready for the Olympics.

At the 1996 Olympics, Gu Jun and Ge Fei battled against top-tier teams from other countries to reach the finals. In the finals, they faced Gil Young-Ah and Jang Hye-Ock. It was their second meeting since the 1995 China Open.

The two teams battled for Olympic gold. Gu Jun and Ge Fei emerged dominant and victorious as they won the finals match in straight sets. The win gave the pair their first Olympic gold medal — during their Olympic debut at that!

After the Olympics, Gu Jun and Ge Fei ended their year with a bang at the 1996 Badminton World Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. There, they faced their compatriots Qin Yiyuan and Tang Yongshu in the finals.

Gu Jun and Ge Fei defeated their opponents in straight sets, winning the second game by a narrow margin. Jun and Fei won their first World Cup title — a fitting end to a successful 1996 campaign.

1996 was one of the most successful years of Gu Jun’s illustrious career. It was the year she bagged Olympic gold, her first All England title, and the World Cup.

The Post-Olympic Streak

A former badminton great, Gillian Clark was quick to recognize the achievements of Gu Jun and Ge Fei after the Olympics. She noted that the pair had not lost a major competition following their 1996 Olympic triumph.

Following the Olympics, Gu Jun and Ge Fei earned victory after victory, starting with the 1997 Japan Open. They followed this up with a successful title defense at the 1997 All England.

Gu Jun and Ge Fei also dominated the 1997 Korean Open and Swiss Open, adding to their Grand Prix title tally.

After the Swiss Open, Jun and Fei achieved one of their most storied victories when they won the 1997 Badminton World Championships. They won the title again in 1999 after defeating South Korea’s Ra Kyung-Min and Chung Jae-Hee in the finals.

The medal haul didn’t stop there as more victories followed. Between 1996 and 1998, Gu Jun and Ge Fei went on an undefeated streak lasting more than 26 months. The streak remains to be one of the most impressive in badminton history.

A Promise Fulfilled: The 2000 Olympics

Gu Jun’s victory at the 1996 Olympics enabled her to reach greater heights in badminton. Most importantly, it allowed her the chance to save her father’s business. Following her victory in 1996, Gu Jun gave her father $100,000 to help rebuild his dilapidated factory in China. With the improvements made, her father was able to resume operations again.

Delighted at the business’s revival, Gu Jun promised her father and the factory’s workers that she would win the 2000 Olympics.

At the 2000 Olympics, Gu Jun and Ge Fei competed and dominated the women’s doubles event. They reached the finals. Then, standing between them and their second Olympic title were their compatriots, Huang Nanyan and Yang Wei.

The two teams fought hard for Olympic gold. Nevertheless, the powerful combination of Jun and Fei proved too much for their opponents to handle. Defeating their opponents in straight sets, Gu Jun and Ge Fei claimed their second Olympic title.

After the 2000 Olympics, Gu Jun and Ge Fei parted ways. Ge Fei continued competing until her retirement in 2001. For Gu Jun, the 2000 Olympics was the swan song of a career filled with titles and storied matches.

Gu Jun returned to a hero’s welcome after her 2000 Olympic outing. Not only did she return a champion, but she also fulfilled the promise she made to her father and his employees.

Dominant in the 90s, Legendary for Generations to Come

Gu Jun became part of the Hall of Fame in 2008, alongside her longtime partner Ge Fei. With her partner, Gu Jun earned her spot as one of the legends of the game. Time will tell if there can be another female badminton player who can hold a candle to her accomplishments.

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