Current BWF President Paul Eric Hoyer capped an impressive singles campaign in 1996 by winning the men’s singles gold medal in Atlanta.
It’s been 25 years since then and Helsing-born is still the only non-Asian man to ever stand atop the badminton podium at the Summer Games.
By Bikash Mohapatra. Pictures: badminton picture
Linford Christie was a perfect example for Paul Eric Hoyer. The Jamaican-born athlete is now recognized as the only British man to win gold medals in a major competition quad: the OlympicsWorld Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games.
However, it is also a fact that most of Christie’s major successes occurred in the fourth decade of his life, that is, after he turned thirty. For someone who started playing professional badminton as early as the mid-1980s, Høyer achieved success somewhat late in his career, nearly 10 years late.
The Dane was nearing his third decade of life in 1995 when he won his first All England title, as well as his first (bronze) medal at the World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. When the age factor was pointed out before that year’s IBF World Grand Prix final in Singapore, where he was one of the oldest players in the field, Høyer admitted his improvement as a player “was incremental” but at the same time exuded confidence prior to the 1996 season.
“I am aiming for the Olympic title. Look at Linford Christie (Barcelona Olympic gold medalist) – he is still getting better at 35,” the Dane told the media. It wasn’t that Høyer was so desperate for hope. On the contrary, he was realistic and ready to go the way. It’s been two months before results start to show.
A 15-9, 16-17, 15-10 win over Sweden’s Thomas Johansson earned him his first Swiss title. A few days later, the Dane defended his All-England title in an emphatic fashion, unbeaten in five matches. Høyer’s impressive defense included a second-round victory over Indonesia’s Hendrawan (2001 world champion) in the round of 16, a fairly easy quarter-final victory over 1991 All-England winner Ardy Wiranata, and a semi-final defeat to Asian champion Park Sung-woo. of South Korea, 15-7, 15-6 defeated Commonwealth Games gold medalist Malaysia Rachid Saidek in the final.
Høyer juggernaut lasted 15The tenth The European Badminton Championships held in Herning, Denmark. A fairly straightforward 15-5, 15-11 win over compatriot and coaching partner Peter Rasmussen secured the left-handed man a third consecutive Continental title.
Besides, his championships helped Denmark reach the final of the Thomas Cup for the first time in 17 years. In the semi-finals of the team competition in Hong Kong, Høyer trailed by a match and lost 1–13 per second against China’s Dong Jiong. The left-handed came back strong to beat World No. 2 6-15, 18-17, 15-11, and his victory inspired the Danes with a 3-2 win over China.
Entering the badminton competition at the Atlanta Olympics, Høyer was clearly one of the candidates. In second place, the first two matches were easy picks for the Dane even as the top seed, Joko Suprianto of Indonesia, stalled in the quarter-finals. Hoyer’s opponent in the quarter-finals was Alan Pudicusuma, the defending champion and part of the powerful Indonesian squad that knocked out Denmark in the Thomas Cup final that year.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t a contest, as Høyer managed to reach the semi-finals with a 15-5, 15-6 win. Haryanto Arbe, the world champion, waited in the round of four. The Indonesian had beaten the Dane on his way to his world title in 1995, and had a better head-to-head record (7-2 at that point). Høyer had outflanked Arbi to win his first All England title, and this result ensured great confidence to emerge. The second seed won 15-11, 15-6 to play a final against third seed Dong Jeong.
Winning 15-12, 15-10 in the final not only secured Hauer the gold medal, but also meant that he had secured victory in an emphatic fashion, unbeaten in five matches.
In the final analysis, 1996 turned out to be the most glorious year in Hoyer’s illustrious career. It took him time for his biggest and most memorable win – the Olympic gold medal.
However, when that happened, he was sure that the Dane would be remembered as one of the game’s all-time greats. Legend has it that superstitious Høyer won all the major titles in his career playing in the old fortune shoe, which according to multiple sources was six to 12 years old, and was on the verge of collapse.
After a successful career on the court, the Helsing-born also enjoyed an equally successful stint. At their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in May 2013, Høyer was elected President of the World Badminton Federation (BWF). Earlier in May, the 55-year-old was re-elected for a third consecutive term. In fact, he was re-elected unopposed, indicating continuity at the top of the BWF leadership. There is another aspect where the Dane maintains continuity and remains unparalleled.
Thomas Stoer-Lauresen won the bronze medal in men’s singles in 1992, the only medal won by a non-Asian person at the Barcelona Olympics – where badminton debuted as a medal sport. Victor Axelsen repeated the individual bronze achievement at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. However, standing on top of the podium in men’s singles is not something another Dane has achieved, or not achieved by someone other than an Asian.
It’s been 25 years since that victory in Atlanta, but Høyer remains the only non-Asian man to win a badminton gold medal at the Summer Olympics.