Ge Fei was born on October 9, 1975, in Nantong, Jiangsu, China. Due to her father’s wishes, she began playing badminton at the age of 6 years old. Two years later, Ge began training at the Nantong Amateur Sports School and moved to the Jiangsu Sports School a year later. In 1985, Ge entered the provincial sports school. At 10 years old, Ge began playing doubles with Gu Jun who was the same age. The pair was accepted into the Jiangsu provincial team in 1987 when they were 12 years old.
A few years later, Ge and Gu participated at the 1991 China Open to gain experience and were quickly eliminated. Gu was paired up with Han Jingna to represent China at the 1991 and 1992 World Championships and the pair met with some success. Coach Jiang Yongyi had noticed Ge’s talent in doubles and identified her as talent that only appears once every decade. Coach Jiang’s prediction was right as the 17-year-old Ge and Gu won the Chinese National Championships in Women’s Doubles in 1992. Ge represented Jiangsu in the 7th National Games in 1993. She played singles and doubles in the team event and was instrumental in her team’s win. Ge and Gu were invited to the national team the following year.
Ge and Gu’s first outing as a pair was in September 1993 at the Wimbledon Open. They entered all three events and the two partners met each other in the final of the Women’s Singles. Ge defeated Gu with the scores of 11-4, 11-6. Ge’s Women’s Singles win at the Wimbledon Open would be her only international title in that event. Ge played with her future husband, Sun Jun, in the Mixed Doubles but lost in the quarter-finals. Unseeded Ge and Gu may have had an easy run to the finals with a bye, two walkovers, a 15-0, 15-1 win over English pair but the finals proved to be no different. The Chinese pair easily defeated Erica Van Den Heuvel and Nicole Van Hooren 15-5, 15-6.
In November 1993, Ge and Gu repeated their success in Women’s Doubles at the Thailand Open. At that tournament, Ge had a fierce clash with the up-and-coming 14-year-old Mia Audina of Indonesia in Women’s Singles but the latter survived and advanced with the scores of 11-7, 4-11, 12-11. From then on, Ge and Gu would completely dominate Women’s Doubles until the turn of the century.
From the 1993 Wimbledon Open to their last success at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the Ge-Gu strike force blasted through the international circuit. They won titles at the Asian Badminton Championships (1994, 1995, 1998, 1999), China Open (1994, 1995, 1997, 1999), Malaysia Open (1994, 1997, 1999), Singapore Open (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998), Thailand Open (1993, 1994, 2000), Indonesia Open (1995), Japan Open (1995, 1997, 1998, 1999) Chinese Taipei Open (1996), World Cup (1996, 1997), Korea Open (1997), and Swiss Open (1997, 1998).
The pair had an amazing six straight wins at the World Grand Prix Finals (1994-1999) and never lost at the All England from 1996-2000 (1996, 1997, 1998, 2000). As Ge and Gu pulled out of the 1999 All England reportedly due to injury suffered at a tournament in China shortly before, the pair was unable to maintain a five-year consecutive streak at the All England.
With such an amazing track record, Ge and Gu rarely suffered from losses. Their only loss in 1996 was at the Japan Open in January. Ge and Gu lost to reigning World Champions, Gil Young Ah and Jang Hye Ock, who defeated them 15-5, 14-17, 15-10. During Ge and Gu’s peak, they won so many matches that a loss raised eyebrows. Their defeat to compatriots, Qiang Hong and Liu Lu, 7-15 4-15, in a group match at the 1997 World Grand Prix Finals was reportedly their first loss in nearly two years. Christian Hadinata, the Indonesian team manager, complained to the tournament referee about match fixing as Qiang and Lu’s victory allowed them to advance to the semi-final round instead of an Indonesian duo. The complaint was not accepted and Ge and Gu nevertheless went on to win the tournament. Gu later said that Ge Fei was tired from her Mixed Doubles which triggered their loss in the group stage. As the IBF found no grounds for the complaint, many people forgot about this loss and say that Ge and Gu were undefeated in over 100 matches over four years which is incorrect.
During their peak, Ge and Gu’s domination was confirmed by many observers of the badminton scene such as Gillian Clark who wrote in 1998: “The current world, Olympic and All England champions, Ge Fei and Gu Jun, stand head and shoulders above the rest. It is now an incredible 26 months since the top Chinese pair failed to win a tournament in which they participated. Gu Jun is the more dominant and aggressive of the two, and wonderfully expressive in her manner. Ge Fei is much quieter and more reserved. Ge Fei…has excellent control and touch at the net, made even more difficult by a phenomenal natural ability to anticipate. She is incredibly creative, and by taking the shuttle early she is able to play subtle downward pushes into the mid-court spaces”.
Ge and Gu indeed had perfect understanding on court and were extremely consistent. They were seen by their opponents as being as strong as a Men’s Doubles pair. Despite their perfect understanding on court, Ge and Gu are not close friends outside of the court.
Ge’s talent also translated well into Mixed Doubles. Her partnership with Liu Yong, the current coach to the Chinese national team, would also be very fruitful: All England (1997), Japan Open (1997, 1999, 2000), Korea Open (1997), Malaysia Open (1997), Swiss Open (1997), World Cup (1997), Thailand Open (1999), Danish Open (1999), China Open (1999), Chinese Taipei Open (1999). Before forming a steady partnership with Liu Yong, Ge won the 1995 Asian Badminton Championships with Liu Jianjun. At the 1998 Asian Badminton Championships, Ge Fei teamed up with her significant other, Sun Jun, and just fell short of the gold medal.
With so much success at the Open tournaments, it is no wonder that Ge won three gold medals at the World Championships. In 1997, Ge doubled crowned as she won the Mixed Doubles with Liu Yong and the Women’s Doubles with Gu. During the next edition of World Championships in 1999, Ge and Gu successfully defended their title in Women’s Doubles but Ge only bronzed in Mixed Doubles with Liu Yong.
In team and continental events, Ge and Gu won the Women’s Doubles individual event at the 1998 Asian Games. At those same Games, the Chinese women won the team event. Ge and Gu also contributed to three consecutive Sudirman Cups (1996, 1997, 1999) for China as well as three straight Uber Cups (1998, 2000).
It was at the Olympics that Ge and Gu secured the highest honors. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, they scored a whopping 120 points to their opponents’ meager 39 points in four matches. Their opponents in the final were the reigning world champions, Gil Young Ah and Jang Hye Ock of Korea. Gil and Jang had defeated Ge and Gu 15-12, 11-15, 15-11 at the quarter-final stage to take the 1995 World Championship title. However, at the 1996 Olympics, Ge and Gu had planned a perfect strategy - to attack both sides of the court and then down the middle. The Koreans were unable to counter their attack and fell easily 15-5, 15-5 in just 36 minutes. Ge and Gu’s gold medal in Women’s Doubles was China’s first ever in badminton at the Olympics.
In 2000, at Sydney, Ge and Gu once again only left a handful of points to their opponents – 120 to 45 in four matches and beat compatriots, Huang Nanyan and Yang Wei, 15-5 15-5, in the final round to secure a second consecutive gold medal in Women’s Doubles. Coincidently, it was the same score that gave them Olympic gold in 1996. In Mixed Doubles, Ge and Liu Yong were beaten in the round of 16 by Chris Bruil and Erica van den Heuvel of the Netherlands 17-15, 15-7. Ge and her fiancé and 1999 world champion, Sun Jun, both wanted to clinch gold in Sydney but that was not meant to be. Ge and Sun both left the national team after Sydney. Gu originally wanted to keep playing after Ge’s retirement but she was unable to find a new partner and decided to retire herself.
Although Sun was not able to achieve gold in Sydney, he had earned Ge Fei’s love as the couple got married in May 2002 in Nanjing. Sun said, “My greatest achievement in my career is not a championship. It is Ge Fei. Having such a wife is my blessing.” In 2003, the couple had son whom they named Sun Men-Jun. After his retirement, Sun transitioned into a coach for the Jiangsu team. It was Sun’s dream to nurture an Olympic champion but he put his dream on hold to spend time with his family and watch his son grow.
After retirement from play, Ge studied journalism at Nanjing University. After her studies, she became the Deputy Director of the Nanjing Sports Academy Training Office and Assistant Director of the Nanjing Sports Bureau. In an interview in 2006, Ge talks about how she has adjusted to the 9 to 5 life of an office worker and begins every day in the office with a cup of tea. As part of her duties, Ge often goes to the court to oversee her husband’s coaching. Sun is reported to have joked about the fact that Ge is his boss at work and at home but he does not call her Boss Ge!
Both Ge and Gu came out of retirement to participate in the 9th National Games in 2001. However, they were unable to defend their Women’s Doubles crown and conceded the title to Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen. In Mixed Doubles, Ge successfully retained the 1997 Mixed Doubles title won with Liu but this time partnered with her fiancé, Sun. There is a very famous picture of Ge and Sun in a victorious embrace on the court after their win. After spending four years as a coach of the Jiangsu team, Sun came out of retirement to play in the team event. Jiangsu was victorious and Sun stood proudly on the podium with his son in his arms.
Ge no longer plays badminton and only picks up a racket to play with her son. The 3-year-old can already hit continuous shots with his forehand and backhand. When asked about her plans for her son, Ge said that he was interested in badminton but they had no plans to push him. Their only wish was for him to be healthy and happy.
In 2008, she was promoted to Deputy Director of the Nanjing Sports Bureau. Due to her efforts, the Sports General Administration of China has issued a document stipulating that the Chinese names should be adorned on shirts in the proper Chinese way with family names listed first. She has also been the promoter of good health and fitness in the National People’s Congress. In January 2018, Ge was elected as the representative of the 13th National People's Congress.
Ge has won numerous awards in China, including the Sports Medal of Honor by the State Sports Commission in 1996. In 2001, she received the National Sports Medal of Honor by the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission. In addition, Ge Fei was awarded numerous honorary titles at the Jiangsu provincial and Chinese national levels.
Ge Fei was inducted into the BWF Hall of Fame in 2008.
INDIVIDUAL AWARDS (in order by year)
1994 – Top Ten Athlete of Jiangsu Province
1995 – Top Ten Athlete of Jiangsu Province
1996 – Sports Medal of Honor by the State Sports Commission
1996 – Top Ten Athlete in China
1998 – Top Ten Athletes of the World in 1997
2000 – Honorary Title of National Advanced Worker
2001 – National Sports Medal of Honor
2008 – BWF Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
1995 World Championships Official Programme
1997 Swiss Open Official Programme
1997 World Championships Official Programme
1999 World Championships Official Programme
1998 All England Official Programme
1999 All England Official Programme
2000 All England Official Programme
Badminton Handbook (Bernd-Volker Brahms)
Badminton Magazine (China)
Badminton Tips & Tricks (Michael Dickhäuser)
Handbuch Badminton (Bernd-Volker Brahms)
Histoire du badminton (Jean-Yves Guillain)
International Badminton … the first 75 years (BWF)
World Badminton (Magazine)
World Badminton (Magazine)
-- By Yves Lacroix