What is the fastest sport in the world?

The Olympics is a good time to realize that there are some great sports out there that we in the US never get to see played at a high level.

One of them is the reputed fastest sport in the world: Badminton.

Yes, the game that is viewed in the US as a children’s summer picnic pastime but is taken seriously in many parts of the world (especially Asia) turns out to be the fastest. Of course, how one determines what is fastest can be disputed. The claim here is based on the fact that the shuttlecock has been measured as traveling as fast as 206 mph at the point of being hit, easily beating baseballs, cricket balls, hockey pucks, golf balls, and the like. Of course, the feathers on the shuttle slow it down but this variance in speed is part of the challenge of the game, as I can attest to first hand since I played it quite a lot in Sri Lanka.

When you see world champions play the game, you quickly realize how fast it is, requiring lightning-quick reflexes. Here is a point from the 2012 Olympics badminton final that may have been the final one that clinched the game for the defending gold medalist Lin Dan of China against Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia.

And here is an incredible rally from a doubles game from the 2010 world championships that shows the rapid reflexes and teamwork required. How the players avoid crashing into each other beats me.


  1. zekehoskin says

    Not knocking badminton, but the fastest sport is airplane racing. The sport demanding the fastest reflexes might be some form of motor racing, or fencing, or unicycle basketball. Or badminton, of course, though the short distances of table tennis give me to rank it as heavier on reflexes, though lighter in power and top speed, than the larger-scale racquet/racket sports.

  2. Trebuchet says

    Badminton is only the fastest, of course, when both teams aren’t trying their hardest to lose.

  3. MNb0 says

    If the speed of the object is the norm badminton is the fastest sport indeed. But if we look at the time interval between two opponents hitting it table tennis wins. This time interval is between 0,025 and 0,04 seconds. What’s more, the table tennis ball rotates a few thousand times a second.
    No matter how impressive I find those two video’s, try this:

  4. Joe T says

    I LOVE table tennis played at an elite level. I got fairly good for a while at college but i could never get close to matching the foreign students who had been playing their whole life.

    Badminton is also awesome to watch when played by the pros but ping pong will always be my fav.

  5. Dunc says

    I’d argue that sabre fencing is probably the fastest Olympic sport… As far as I know, fencing is the only sport that’s had to actually define precisely what “simultaneous” means, down to the millisecond (it’s “within 40 milliseconds”). It’s almost impossible to follow a sabre bout at normal speed…

  6. Chrisj says

    “[A] game that is viewed […] as a children’s summer picnic pastime”

    So a bit like the way baseball is regarded outside the USA, then?

  7. Kilane says

    That speed statistic is deceptive. That’s the speed when it is smashed, it slows down dramatically by the time the opponent returns it. I attempted to find the speed at the point of return but couldn’t find it anywhere, presumably because it’s much less impressive.

    I’m a bit biased but fencing seems like one of the sports that are up there. One of the first sports to adopt electronics because it’s near impossible to tell a hit without it. Judges can barely tell who has priority (first to make movement towards an attack) and they do it professionally (you’ll see a couple overturned decisions in a first to 15 match). As a spectator I’ll see a blaze of swords and a light.

  8. left0ver1under says

    What counts as a “fast” sport depends on opinion and possibly bias. Those mentioned above involve objects moving at high speed, not people. A person can stand still and break the sound barrier with a bullwhip.

    In other sports which claim to be the fastest, it is the human body moving (e.g. 100 metre dash) or the body is driving an object connected to it (e.g. a bicycle, ice skates).

    I’m partial to the second definition, not the first. The first’s could include skeet shooting and pistols as the “fastest” or cars. Whether one considers badminton and car racing sports is up for debate, but they certainly aren’t athletics.

  9. MNb0 says

    Frankly I don’t care about definitions. It’s sports; I just want to be in awe. Long live my subjectivity and bias! As far as I’m concerned the entire list of logical fallacies is allowed when discussing sports.

  10. says

    Forget the speed at impact – I find the unusual flight characteristics of the shuttlecock to be the most interesting part. Hit it just right and you can steam it over the net, only for it to lose airspeed as it approaches the far end… then plummet almost directly downwards just the right side of the court lines.

    Ah, now I miss playing it weekly.

  11. rq says

    As for not crashing into each other in doubles, the way this was (more or less) fixed when I did some playing was a strict adherence to left-right or front-back playing, where the players decide who plays which parts of the court and do their utmost not to infringe into each other’s territory. That, and a lot of practice with each other.

  12. Skip White says


    Not to nitpick, but baseball is also taken fairly seriously in Japan as well as the Caribbean and Central America.

  13. danbo50097 says

    Without a doubt, the Irish sport of hurling is the fastest and most intense sport in the world. Take a look at this video, and you’ll see what I mean.

  14. arun.s says

    I’ve played several at a very high level competitively over the years. I can tell you first hand,Badminton when played seriously with pro grade equipment, hands down is the most demanding,explosively fast sport you or anyone can come across.
    The sustained level of sheer speed,stamina,power and deception is uncanny to say the least. No other sport even comes close in all these areas and leaves you incredibly exhausted, for a very long time.Obviously the fitter you are,the quicker you recover and have to do it all over again. It requires training and dedicated focus worthy of a marathon runner and then some.
    Sure the comments here are all interesting up to a point and that point,is where Badminton takes off. Sure some will always argue, that in fact left is right, black is white,up is down and all visa versa, but the truth is undeniable. For those that seek the truth and nothing but the truth watch all of these ‘sports’ live and then watch Badminton. Better yet ,play it hard and one of two things will happen. You will love it or you will hate it. Regardless, it ‘ll leave you reeling with a new found respect for it.

  15. Sh*tFace says

    Guys seriously,Chess IS the fastest sport in the world…
    That or Clay Pigeon Shooting 😛 (or other shooting spots)
    Just Saying 😉

  16. Arun s says

    Isn’t it just awesome that we have a wide array of sports such as these, to choose from. Either that or play all of them with all the skills you can muster and have a better basis or an inside view as to which one is the fastest, most demanding and so forth.
    Again, having competed at state and national levels in all of these, I can say w/o doubt or hesitation….Badminton has my vote, hands down! Thanks for your time, just give it the attention it deserves and oh…give it time. It’s not something just everyone can comprehend right away.

  17. Allan says

    All depends on the actual question. You would have to define exactly what you mean. Example, fastest TEAM sport where one TEAM plays another and the average speed of the players on the field is the fastest recorded, That’s Ice Hockey. Then there is the speed of the object ball/puck/shuttle etc etc which is Badminton.

    Its not easy to qualify whats accepted as a sport in which to frame a question.

  18. Michael S says

    Nascar is actually slower than badminton. The worlds fastest badminton smash was clocked to be 493km/h, faster than the speed of cars by a long shot.

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