Ra Kyung Min was born on November 25, 1976, in Seoul, Korea.
In Ra’s family, she is the youngest of three daughters and also has a brother. She first began playing badminton in Grade 4 while attending the Youngdeungpo Elementary School.
During an interview conducted by Badzine in 2008, Ra said, “a teacher came to our class and said she wanted to pick out the kids who could run the fastest and I tried and was chosen so I thought we were going for track and field training but then it turned out that we were being chosen for the badminton team. So that’s how I became a badminton player.”
Ra’s choice of sport soon proved to be the right one. Just before she turned 15 years old, Ra reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Singles of the 1991 Hungarian Open. She did even better in the doubles events and double silvered in Women’s Doubles with Choi Ma Ree and Mixed Doubles with Hwang Sun Ho at the same event.
A year later, she reached the semi-final of the 1992 Asian Championships and final of the Wimbledon Open in September. Back on home soil, Ra won the silver medal in Women’s Singles at 1992 Korean National Championships.
From 1992-1995, Ra consistently reached the semi-finals of numerous tournaments, such as the previously mentioned 1992 Asian Championships, 1994 World Grand Prix Finals, 1994 and 1995 Korea Opens, the 1994, 1995 and 1996 Swedish Opens, and the 1993 and 1995 Hong Kong Opens. Only top players such as Ye Zhaoying, Gong Zhichao, Zhang Ning, Susy Susanti, and Sarwendah Kusumawardani could stop her. At the 1995 Canadian Open, she reached the final round but lost the opportunity to earn her first title to compatriot, Bang Soo Hyun.
After many appearances in the final round of tournaments, Ra defeated Yuliani Santosa of Indonesia to win her first international title in Women’s Singles at the 1994 Singapore Open.
However, it was in Mixed Doubles that Ra truly rose in fame. Late in 1995, the 19-year-old Ra was matched with the veteran Park Joo Bong to represent Korea at the 1996 Olympics. The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta was the first time that Mixed Doubles was included as an official event. Prior to the quadrennial event, Ra and Park easily won six titles in rapid succession, including the prestigious All England.
With such decisive victories leading up to the 1996 Olympics, Ra and Park were awarded a first seed. Ra and Park sailed through to the finals and left behind scores of 10 and under except for one game against the Swedes Peter Axelsson and Catrine Bengtsson who took them to deuce 15-17 after losing the first game 1-15.
In the final, Olympic favourites Ra and Park played against unseeded and fellow Koreans Kim Dong Moon and Gil Young Ah. Kim and Gil also had a relatively easy run to the finals with two-game victories. Ra and Park won the opening game 15-13 but lost the second game easily with the scores of 4-15. In the third and final game for gold, Ra and Park took the lead but Gil and Kim overtook them with a final score of 15-12.
After the 1996 Olympics Games, Ra continued to play singles. She had good results such as a semi-final finish at the Hong Kong Open in 1996. In 1997, she reached the semi-final at the Korea Open and All England in 1997 and finals at the 1997 Swedish Open.
Although it is impossible to confirm, it is said that Ra Kyung-min holds the world record for the shortest badminton international match in which she defeated Julia Mann of England with a score of 11-2, 11-1 in a mere 6 minutes at the 1996 Uber Cup. At the same tournament, Korea lost in the semi-final to Indonesia 1-4. Ra scored Korea’s only point with her victory over Yuliani Santosa 11-4, 11-4.
Ra’s career in Mixed Doubles skyrocketed when she began competing in 1997 with her husband-to-be, Kim Dong Moon. The incredible pair would win a very long list of titles from 1997-2004.
On the Open circuit, Ra and Kim collected a fantastic number of gold medals. Their resume includes one China Open (1997), three Hong Kong Opens (1997, 2001, 2003), one US Open (1997), two Japan Opens (1998, 2002), two Swedish Opens (1998, 1999), three Singapore Opens (1999, 2002, 2003), two Malaysia Opens (2000, 2003), three Swiss Opens (2000, 2002, 2004), one Chinese Taipei Open (2003), one Dutch Open (2003), one German Open (2003), one Danish Open (2003), one Indonesia Open (2003), and an incredible six straight Korea Opens from 1999-2004.
In addition, Ra and Kim earned four All England titles (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004), two World Championships (1999, 2003), two World Grand Prix Finals (1998, 1999), four Asian Championships crowns (1998, 1999, 2001, 2004) and two consecutive Asian Games laurels (1998, 2002). At the 2001 World Championships, they lost to their archrivals, Zhang Jun and Gao Ling of China, 10-15, 15-12, 16-17. Even though they had a very good head-to-head record against the Chinese, the Koreans had a tendency to falter at crucial moments such as at the 2000 Olympics where they were eliminated in the quarterfinal by Zhang and Gao 15-11, 15-1.
Their domination was at its peak in 2003. From April (post-Japan Open) to November, the Koreans were undefeated in Grand Prix competition. They won nine straight tournaments, as well as the World Championships title in August. With such impressive results, it was no wonder that Ra and Kim were awarded the Eddie Choong Player of the Year for 2003 by the then-International Badminton Federation.
At the 2004 Olympics, Ra and Kim’s dream of a gold medal were crushed again when they fell unexpectedly in the quarterfinals to seventh seeds Jonas Rasmussen and Rikke Olsen 14-17, 8-15. Thus, Ra was forever denied an Olympic gold despite her incredible career.
Even though her results in Women’s Doubles was not as impressive as her resume in Mixed Doubles, Ra’s Women’s Doubles victories would still be the envy of many players. Partnered with Chung Jae Hee, Ra won the 1999 All England and numerous other titles. Ra won even more titles with Lee Kyung Won. The pair were crowned at the Japan Open (2002, 2004), Korea Open (2003), and even the 2002 Asian Games in a controversial match against the then-dominant Gao Ling and Huang Sui. Ra’s last international title was won in Women’s Doubles with Jun Woul Sik at the 2005 Canadian International in Montréal.
Reflecting on her career, Ra Kyung Min later said that her 1999 World Championships Mixed Doubles title as well as her 2002 Asian Games gold in Women’s Doubles were among her career’s highlights.
In collective play, Ra was a member of the winning Korean teams at the 1994 Asian Games as well as at the 2003 Sudirman Cup.
Kim and Ra said they had fallen in love after the 2002 Asian Games. They had their first kiss in June 2003 and Kim proposed to Ra on a bench in the Taeneung Athletes’ Village in Seoul right after the 2004 Olympics. Ra and Kim managed to keep their relationships a secret from their team-mates and national team coaches for three years but both parents had known for quite some time.
Ra and Kim got married on December 25, 2005. After their wedding, Kim moved to Canada where he studied English and coached at private clubs. Kim and Ra had a son in 2007 and a daughter in 2008. In 2008, Ra was quoted in the Korean press as saying that she would never let her son go into badminton as a career. She confirmed this fact in an interview with Badzine later that year. Ra also mentioned that she planned to live in Canada for about five years. In 2013, she told Wolgan Badminton that she was still deciding whether to let her children become badminton players. Ra felt that it would be better for girls to become a badminton player than boys because sport is a very hard road for the latter.
Ra, who had a coaching job at Daekyo Badminton Team, joined her husband in Canada in 2007 but returned to Korea two years later for a short-lived comeback as a player. In 2011, Ra and Kim both returned to Korea when Ra accepted the position as a coach for the Daekyo Badminton Team where she had once been a player. As Daekyo Head Coach Sung Han Kook was preoccupied with his other position as Head Coach for the national team, Ra was mainly in charge. By June of 2011, she had been named Head Coach of the team. The Daekyo team was dissolved in late 2014. By 2015, Ra was coaching the national team and still in that position.
Ra was inducted into the BWF Hall of Fame in 2009.
2003 – Eddie Choong Player of the Year (with partner Kim Dong Moon)
2009 – BWF Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
1999 All England Official Programme
1999 World Championships Official Programme
2003 Korea Open Official Programme
Badminton Magazin (Germany)
Badminton World Federation – Statutes 2007/2008
Hankyoreh Shinmun (December 3, 1992)
International Badminton – the first 75 years
World Badminton (Magazine)
-- By Yves Lacroix