Canada’s greatest badminton player goes for gold

Michelle Li captured Canada's first ever women's singles gold medal in badminton at the Commonwealth Games (Andrew Vaughan/CP).

Name: Michelle Li
Born: Nov. 3, 1991, in Hong Kong
Sport: Badminton

What’s her story?

Michelle Li is Canada’s most successful badminton player, currently ranked 15th in the Badminton World Rankings for women’s singles. The 23-year-old has been tearing up the court since 2011, when she won gold in both singles and doubles at the Canada Winter Games. She repeated the feat later that year at her first Pan Am Games in Guadalajara.

Li went on to compete at the London Summer Olympics in 2012, placing fourth in women’s doubles with then-partner Alexandra Bruce.

In 2014, she made the finals at the Macau Open Grand Prix and the quarterfinals at the All England Open, both prestigious international events. These results temporarily advanced her world ranking to No. 11.

Off the Badminton World Federation circuit, Li recently won gold at the Badmintonligaen Guldkampen Final in Copenhagen, Denmark, playing for Greve Strands Badmintonklub. She is also the five-time Canadian national champion.

Best result

In 2014, Li won four major BWF events, including the Canadian Open Grand Prix. She also won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, becoming the first Canadian to win in women’s singles for both events.

Biggest rival

USA’s Beiwen Zhang, ranked 13th in the world, will be the one to beat at Toronto’s Pan Am Games. Zhang is coming off a strong year, having also won four Grand Prix events. The last time the two met in the finals was at the 2014 Peru International challenge, and Zhang came out on top.

Here’s an interesting fact…

Li’s first Olympics were fraught with controversy (none of which directly involved her). She and Bruce finished last in the round robin tournament, losing all three of their matches. But the top four pairs (one from China, two from South Korea, one from Indonesia) were disqualified for intentionally throwing matches early in the tournament to land more favourable draws later on. Li and Bruce were allowed to move on to the quarterfinals, where they defeated an Australian pair. They lost to Japan in the semifinals, but their fourth-place finish is the best result in Canada’s badminton history at the Olympics.


Li looks good for the finals at the Pan Ams, and gold is certainly within the realm of possibility for the defending champ.

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