Michelle Li is the most successful Canadian female badminton player ever – not bad for an athlete who has wanted to change the sport in Canada since she won the silver medal at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games. She competed at the Canada Games in 2007 and 2011, winning gold in both the women’s singles and doubles events in her second appearance.
In 2011 she made her debut at the Pan Am Games where she was also a double gold medallist. Her doubles partner at both competitions was Alex Bruce, with whom Li had a breakthrough at the London 2012 Olympic Games when they finished fourth, by far Canada’s best-ever Olympic result in badminton.
In 2014 Li became the first Canadian woman to ever win badminton singles gold at the Commonwealth Games. Another 2014 highlight came at the prestigious All-England Open where she advanced to the quarterfinals, helping her to reach a then-career-high singles world ranking at number 11.
Li successfully defended her singles gold medal at the Pan Am Games in 2015, where she also won doubles bronze with Rachel Honderich. After a 17th place finish at Rio 2016, Li took a full year off to undergo surgery for and recover from injuries she sustained in the lead up to Games, including hip labral tears, knee tendon tears, and a metatarsal fracture. She returned in 2018 to qualify for the BWF World Tour Finals and led Canada to the quarterfinals in the Uber Cup.
In 2019, Li was back at the top of her game, claiming a third straight singles gold at the Pan Am Games. In late October 2019, Li reached a new career-high on the world ranking list, moving up to number eight. That followed some great results, including a semifinal appearance at the Japan Open where she defeated the top seed and advancing to the Round of 16 at the world championships.
In her third Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2020, Li went 2-0 in group play to advance to the Round of 16, matching the best ever Canadian result in women’s singles at the Olympic Games.
Li’s success has come despite having fewer resources than her top international competitors. She often travels and competes on her own and is always conscious of trying to stay injury-free without having a physiotherapist to help her at tournaments.
A Little More About Michelle
Getting into the Sport: An active child, started playing badminton at age 11 with her mom at the local community centre… A friend introduced her to her current club where she began lessons and competing… Decided at age 17 that she wanted to pursue badminton full time… Other Interests: Was enrolled at University of Toronto for two years (most recently 2012-13)… Enjoys reading and eating good food around the world… Odds and Ends: Inspired by Roger Federer for acknowledging his flaws and working hard to improve and become a champion while staying humble… Favourite quote: “Faith must always be greater than your fear”… Collects Starbucks “You Are Here” mugs from different destinations where she competes…
Notable International Results
Olympic Games: 2020 - 9th (singles); 2016 – 17th (singles); 2012 – 17th (singles), 4th (doubles w/ Bruce)
BWF World Championships: 2019 – Rd of 16 (singles); 2018 – Rd of 32 (singles); 2017– Rd of 32 (singles); 2015 – Rd of 16 (singles); 2014 – Rd of 16 (singles); 2013 – Rd of 64 (singles); 2011 – Rd of 32 (singles)
Pan American Games: 2019 – GOLD (singles); 2015 – GOLD (singles), BRONZE (doubles); 2011 – GOLD (singles), GOLD (doubles)
Commonwealth Games: 2018 – 4th (singles); 2014 – GOLD (singles); 2010 - 5th (singles)