Nothing spells “badminton doubles specialist” better than reigning with different partners and an Olympic gold medal. Throw in stints in both the men’s and mixed doubles categories, and you get a versatile doubles badminton player. These descriptions are perfect for one South Korean shuttler: Lee Yong-Dae!
Lee Yong-Dae was born in Jeolla, South Korea, on September 11, 1988. He holds multiple Asian Championship titles in both men’s and mixed doubles. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 in the mixed doubles category. Lee Yong-Dae rose to popularity by reaching the top of the badminton doubles rankings with four partners. Lee Yong-Dae has won 43 Superseries titles, with 37 in the men’s doubles event and six in the mixed doubles category. Also among his titles are 16 Grand Prix titles in the men’s doubles event. He retired in 2016 but returned two years later, forging a new partnership with Kim Gi-Jung.
Lee Yong-Dae’s accomplishments make him one of the most successful doubles badminton players in the world. Read on to learn more about this South Korean badminton doubles specialist!
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Born on September 11, 1988, Lee Yong-Dae grew up in Hwasun, South Jeolla, South Korea. As a child, he struggled with his weight and body composition. After trying various diets and exercise routines, he lost hope. In an interview with Badminton World Federation (BWF) TV, Lee Dong-Yae talked about how he looked for ways to lose his extra weight.
When he turned eight, he began playing badminton and found it to be a form of exercise that was actually fun. It wasn’t long before he became obsessed with the sport.
By age 15, Lee had already begun competing internationally. His first international competition was the 2003 Canada International. He competed in the singles and doubles events, losing early in both.
Almost a week later, he flew to the United States from Canada to compete at the OCBC/Yonex US Open. Once again, he played singles and doubles. Despite his improved performance, Lee Yong-Dae was eliminated in the second round of the competition.
Lee Yong-Dae’s losses in his debut year did little to deter him from pursuing badminton. In 2004, Lee Yong-Dae competed in the French Open International. At the 2004 French Open International, Lee competed in the singles, boy’s doubles, and mixed doubles events.
Lee Yong-Dae partnered with Jung Jung-Young for the boy’s doubles event, losing early. However, in the mixed doubles event, Lee’s partnership with Kang Hae-Won bore fruit as the pair reached the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Lee Yong-Dae and Kang Hae-Won faced Russia’s Nikolaj Zuev and Marina Yakusheva. The team of Lee and Kang lost, meaning they had to settle for the bronze medal. It was Lee Yong-Dae’s first bronze medal at an international event.
Months after competing at the French Open International, Lee Yong-Dae competed in the 2004 Asian Junior Championships. The championships took place in Hwacheon, South Korea, from July 12 to 18.
Lee Yong-Dae competed in the boy’s doubles event alongside Jung Jung-Young once more. The pair placed themselves at an advantage en route to the finals.
They faced fellow South Koreans, Jeon Jun-Bum and Yoo Yeon-Seong. Lee and Jung defeated their opponents to win the boy’s doubles event.
The victory gave Lee Yong-Dae his first Asian Junior Championships title. It’s a title he successfully defended until 2006 — both in boys and mixed doubles!
Having dominated the Asian doubles circuit from 2004 to 2006, Lee Yong-Dae qualified for the 2006 BWF World Junior Championships, which took place in Incheon, South Korea.
Le Yong-Dae and Cho Gun-woo faced China’s Liu Xiaolong and Li Tian in the boy’s doubles final. The South Korean duo made short work of their Chinese opponents, beating them decisively in two straight games to win gold.
For the mixed doubles finals of the 2006 BWF World Junior Championships, Lee Yong-Dae paired with Yoo Hyun-Young. The pair also won in the finals, beating China’s Ma Jin and Li Tian.
Lee Yong-Dae finished off 2006 by playing men’s doubles at the 2006 Asian Games. Partnering with Jung Jae-Sung, Lee Yong Dae faced Indonesia’s Luluk Hadiyanto and Alvent Yulianto in the semifinals.
Despite giving the Indonesian team problems early on, Lee and Jung lost, winning a bronze medal in the Asian Games. The pair’s bronze-medal win enabled South Korea to win silver in the 2006 Asian games.
2008: The Year That Lee Yong-Dae Put the Badminton World on Notice
2008 was a successful year for the young Lee Yong-Dae. His earliest success of the year came in March of 2008.
Medals at the All England
On March 4, 2008, Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung played at the prestigious Yonex All England Open. As with most of his past tournaments, Lee Yong-Dae entered both the men’s and mixed doubles categories.
For the mixed doubles category, Lee played alongside Lee Hyo-Jung. Unfortunately, the pair lost in the quarter-finals to Chinese players Zheng Bo and Gao Ling.
In the men’s doubles event, Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung battled their way to the finals. They faced fellow South Koreans Lee Jae-In and Hwang Ji-Man. Hwang Ji-Man and Le Jae-In proved formidable in the first game, defeating Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae-Sung 22 to 20. However, Lee Yong-Dae and his partner recovered in the second game and beat their opponents 21 to 19.
The third game was close, but Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae-Sung prevailed, winning the men’s doubles of the 2008 All England Open.
A Stellar Swiss Super Series Performance
Fresh off of his win at the All England Open, Lee Yong Dae set his sights on the 2008 Swiss Superseries, playing with the same partners he had in the All England Open.
In the men’s doubles finals, Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung faced Indonesia’s Hendra Setiawan and Markis Kido. The Indonesian pair established dominance early, winning the first game. Nevertheless, Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung proved their indomitable spirit in the second game.
In winning the third game, Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung won the men’s doubles of the 2008 Swiss Superseries. On the same day, Lee Yong-Dae and Lee Hyo-Jung also won bronze in the mixed doubles event.
The Asia Championships, then to the Olympics
On April 20, 2008, Lee Yong-Dae played in the men’s and mixed doubles of the Badminton Asia Championships. With Jung Jae-Sung at his side, Lee Yong-Dae won the men’s doubles event, defeating Candra Wijaya and Nova Widianto.
With victories and titles piling up, Lee Yong-Dae was ready to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This time around, Lee Yong-Dae opted for the mixed doubles event. He was with Lee Hyo-Jung, who had won silver in the women’s doubles event.
The duo faced the Indonesian pair of Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto in the finals. Lee Yong-Dae and Lee Hyo-Jung dominated their Indonesian opponents from the get-go. They showed no quarter as early as the first game, beating their Indonesian opponents by 10 points! The second game was no different — the South Korean mixed pair quickly won.
By the end of the second game, the results had spoken for themselves. Lee Yong-Dae was officially an Olympic Gold medalist!
Post-Olympic Momentum at the Super Series
Lee Yong-Dae continued his winning ways. At the 2008 Li-Ning China Open Super Series, Lee Yong-Dae won gold in both the men’s and mixed doubles events.
Lee Yong-Dae followed up his China Open win with another gold medal finish at the 2008 Hong Kong Super Series. Winning gold in the men’s doubles event, Lee Yong-Dae also took home the runners-up position in the mixed doubles event.
Overall, 2008 was a year of accolades for Lee Yong-Dae. With an Olympic gold medal, Superseries wins, and an All England under his belt, he rose to the top of the rankings by 2009.
Multiple Reigns with Multiple Partners
Lee Yong-Dae is famous for both his accomplishments and his adaptability. More specifically, Lee Yong-Dae has a long history of performing well with various partners throughout his career.
Jung Jae-Sung (Men’s Doubles)
The first badminton player he shared the view from the top with was Jung Jae-Sung. On January 22, 2009, Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung claimed the number one spot.
Before the rise of Lee and Jung, Hendra Setiawan and Markis Kido were ahead. But when Lee and Jung defeated them at the All England, the South Korean duo reached 77402 points. The total ranking points enabled Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung to leapfrog the Indonesian pair for the top position.
The pair lost the top spot but reclaimed it on October 25, 2012. After rising to the top again, Lee Yong-Dae and Jung Jae-Sung held onto the position for 17 weeks.
Lee Hyo-Jung (Mixed Doubles)
Concurrent with his reign at the top of the men’s doubles division, Lee-Yong Dae also held the top spot in the mixed doubles division alongside Lee Hyo-Jung.
Lee Hyo-Jung was Lee Yong-Dae’s mixed doubles partner in various tournaments. They played together in the Swiss Open, Korea Open, and German Open, bagging gold medals left and right. Their wins in these competitions allowed them to seize and hold the number one spot for 16 consecutive weeks.
Lee Yong-Dae and Lee Hyo-Jun momentarily slipped from the rankings after January 21, 2010, but they reclaimed their position at the top of the rankings on June 17, 2010.
Ko Sung-Hyun (Men’s Doubles)
Following dismal results at the 2012 London Olympics, Lee’s South Korean coach, Kim Joong-Soo, saw that a change was necessary. As the national team’s coach, he paired Lee Yong-Dae with Ko Sung-Hyun.
The partnership was the change that they needed. After the Olympics, Lee and Ko won the 2012 Yonex French Badminton Open. Towards the end of 2012, Lee Yong-Dae and Ko Sung-Hyun bagged a hat-trick of impressive wins at the Korea Grand Prix Gold, Open India International, and International India GPG.
By May 30 of the following year, Ko and Lee grabbed the top spot as a pair. They held the position for 25 weeks, only slipping down the ranks after November 14, 2013.
Despite the promising potential of Ko Sung-Hyun and Lee Yong-Dae’s partnership, the two split within a year. Lee Yong-Dae then partnered with Yoo Yeon-Seong.
Lee Yong-Dae and Yoo Yeon-Seong won seven Super Series titles. The pair also won the 2015 and 2016 Badminton Asia Championships.
They officially grabbed the top spot on August 14, 2014, and managed to hold it for two entire years! They lost the top spot in the men’s doubles rankings after November 3, 2016.
Retirement in 2016
In 2016, Lee Yong-Dae decided to retire from international competitions. Adamant in his decision, the South Korean doubles specialist announced his changing path on September 29, 2016.
In the press conference where he expressed his intentions, Lee Yong-Dae mentioned his 2008 Olympic win as the highlight of his career. He also talked about pursuing opportunities outside badminton.
Lee Yong-Dae’s 2018 Comeback
Much to the delight of his long-time fans, Lee Yong-Dae returned in 2018. He kicked off his return campaign with a new partner, Kim Gi-Jung.
Lee Yong-Dae made his triumphant return at the 2018 Barcelona Spain Masters, during which Lee Yong-Dae and Kim Gi-Jung won against Thailand’s Bodin Isara and Maneepong Jongtit.
The newly formed pair followed up their successful initial run with a win at the 2018 Macau Open in which Lee Yong-Dae and Kim Gi-Jung faced fellow South Korean shuttlers, Ko Sung-Hyun and Shin Baek-Chol.
Lee Yong-Dae and Kim Gi-Jung defeated their compatriots in a closely contested match that nearly went the way of their opponents. Lee Yong-Dae and Kim Gi-Jung came from behind to win the second and third games, winning the match.
Lee Yong-Dae — The Epitome of Adaptability
Few players — past and present — can claim to be as adaptable and versatile as Lee Yong-Dae. Apart from his wins and titles, perhaps his most impressive accomplishments lie in the many different divisions and partners he has found success with. With the victories he’s achieved in various events and with different partners, there’s no doubt — Lee Yong-Dae is a master in the doubles division!
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