Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

BADMINTON

Fans of tennis and squash may be surprised to learn that badminton is actually the world's fastest racquet sport, with the speed of the shuttlecock being hit recorded at over 400 kilometres per hour.


A badminton racquet and shuttlecock. (© Press Association)

A badminton racquet and shuttlecock.

Badminton

Fans of tennis and squash may be surprised to learn that badminton is actually the world's fastest racquet sport, with the speed of the shuttlecock being hit recorded at over 400 kilometres per hour.

No high-tech material goes into the making of a shuttlecock to help achieve such speeds as it is simple in design, with the cone-shaped projectile being made of cork implanted with goose feathers.

The lightning-fast, back-and-forth nature of badminton sees the reflexes and reactions of players tested to the full in a sport where stamina and agility are needed in equal measure.

The format is similar to tennis, with a point scored for each rally won irrespective of the server. Players score points by hitting the shuttlecock over the net and landing it on the floor within their opponent's half of the court, or by forcing them to hit it into the net or out of bounds.

Matches are played on a best-of-three-games basis and players must reach 21 points to win a game, although that must be by a clear two-point margin. If scores are tied at 29-29 then the winner of the next point takes the game.

While speed and power are key elements of the sport, players often opt to use a variety of different shot types to try and get the better of an opponent, with a delicate and deceptive drop shot sometimes being just as effective as a powerful smash.

The sport itself has its roots in an ancient game called battledore and shuttlecock, while the modern game can be traced back to the mid-19th century, when British servicemen named an adapted version 'Poona' after the town (now Pune) where they were based in India.

The name was later changed when the sport was brought back to the UK and played at the Duke of Beaufort's residence, Badminton House in Gloucestershire, in 1873.

Despite its illustrious history, badminton actually only made its Olympic debut at Barcelona 1992, with mixed doubles only being added four years later in Atlanta. Competitors from Asia, most notably China, have dominated the sport ever since.

At the Olympics, five medal events are played, with men and women competing in singles and doubles and also teaming up for the mixed doubles.

The competition starts with a round-robin group stage where each player or pair faces every other competitor in their group once. The top 16 singles players, or eight doubles pairings, then advance to the knockout stages.

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