Judy Devlin was born in Winnipeg, Canada on October 22, 1935. During the early part of her childhood, her Irish father, legendary Frank Devlin, was coaching full-time at the Winnipeg Winter Club. The family later moved to Baltimore and, at the age of 7, Devlin began playing with her father, Frank.
The young Devlin was quick to absorb and put into practice the fatherly advice she received in her childhood. As a result, she dominated the junior scene in the USA and won her first international title at 17 years ago with her sister, Sue, who was two years older, in the women’s doubles at the 1953 US Open.
Just a year later, the Little Red Dev, as she was called, transferred her success over to the English soil and grabbed the highest possible honours for a female badminton player at the time. The Devlin sisters won the women’s doubles title and Judy won the first of her record-breaking 10 titles in singles. This was just the beginning of one of the longest and most impressive lists of titles – 86 in total – in the world of badminton.
Her greatest claim to fame was definitely her 17 titles at the All England Championships and a whopping 31 titles at the US Open from 1954 to 1967. No other woman in history has dominated these 2 tournaments as she has. The auburn-haired player added 7 and 8 more golden medals in all 3 events at the Canadian and German Opens respectively.
Although she won tournaments in all 3 events, Judy won 35 of her individual titles in singles. Among those, 10 were at the All England (of which 5 were played against her long-time rival, Margaret Varner, a versatile racket sports athlete from Texas), 12 at the US Open, 4 at the German Open and 3 at the Canadian Open. Her partnership with her sister, Sue, earned them 10 victories at the US Open, 6 at the All England, and 3 in Canada.
Judy Hashman’s lofty list of titles might suggest that the American player had it easy during her career. However, Judy told a different story. Judy shared that she felt a lot of pressure off the court so she “made the most out of each and every opportunity on the court.” She acknowledged that
beyond her opponents, the privileges awarded to her were also a huge pressure. “I was one of the fortunate ones who received a tube of 12 shuttles once a month by RSL, a limited amount of clothes once a year by Fred Perry Sportswear, and wonderfully strung rackets by Tom Wingfield… There was also the cost of court hire, never a free commodity, and a limit of court availability of exactly one hour per day. How many of today’s cosseted and cushioned players can associate with these off-court pressures?”
Hashman was a hard-worker and with the help of her father, she took great care in making the most of the rare occasions she had to learn and practice the game. In the 1950s and 1960s, Devlin claimed that there was almost no training even for world-class players. “In those days, you couldn’t wear slacks up to the corner shop and you couldn’t possibly go out for a run.” The lack of training was not the only obstacle for a serious badminton athlete back then: “Because (I) used to have to work for a living, practice time was limited. One hour at a session was usually all that could be done. In that short time the emphasis had to be on good quality rallying, on accuracy and disguise.” With this insight into her training, it was no wonder that Pat Davis described her game as being a mix of “line-to-line clearing, in-built deception, uncanny accuracy, fantastic concentration and error-free play.”
Despite these difficulties, Judy Hashman not only had success in individual competition, but in team events as well. From 1957 to 1963, the Winnipeg-born athlete played a major role for the US in helping her team win three consecutive Uber Cups. Her record at the latter tournament was almost flawless by the slightest margin: Hashman lost only 1 match in 5 campaigns.
In the midst of her playing heydays, Judy Devlin married Dick Hashman. Judy and Dick had once reached a semi-final in mixed doubles at the All England. In 1960, she moved to England and became a British citizen 10 years later. After gaining her new citizenship in 1970, Hashman helped her adoptive country collect medals at the 1972 European Championships with one title in the team event and another one in women’s doubles in the individual contest.
After her playing career, the most successful female player in the history of the game regularly dispensed coaching advice to the badminton community. She voiced her opinions in World Badminton, the official organ of the IBF of that time. Judy was particularly voluble about the attitude a player should have towards competition. Her mantra was to not “dwell in self-praise nor be flattered by the praise of others. Don’t unwind. Keep your mind focused on the next obstacle, keep the thoughts flowing, keep the plans evolving and keep the overall target firmly in your thoughts.”
In 1978, Hashman had a very brief but successful stint as the head coach to the English team. She led the team to a gold medal at the European Mixed Team Badminton Championships, but her coaching career ended after received her dismissal on that same day.
In the light of her exceptional career, it was no surprise that international honours were awarded to the Canadian-born athlete. In 1985, she became the first woman to win the IBF Distinguished Service Award. More honours came in 1963 with her induction into the USBA Hall of Fame.
In 1995, she received one of the most coveted rewards for a female athlete when she was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Judy joined international athletes such as Martina Navratilova and Sonja Henie. Two years later, Judy and her father, Frank, were voted into the IBF Hall of Fame in 1997. Lastly, in 2009, both Judy and her sister, Sue, were inducted into the Goucher College athletics Hall of Fame.
Her athletic talents were not limited to badminton. In her younger days in the USA, she was an international player of lacrosse and a tennis coach in Oxfordshire from 1972 to 2003.
Despite her overwhelming success, Devlin said “…she has had only one (unavoidable) regret as a player.” Judy’s biggest regret: that the amateur era denied her the chance to compete full-time and discover how good she could have become.” Unfortunately, this wish cannot be fulfilled but Judy Devlin is without a doubt, one of the most successful players in the history of badminton.
1963 – USBA Hall of Fame
1985 – IBF Distinguished Service Award
1995 – International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame
1997 – IBF Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
All England 2011 Official Programme
Badminton Association of England Annual Handbook (1967-1968 Edition)
Badminton for All (Frank Devlin)
Beginning Badminton (Judy Hashman and C.M. Jones)
Encyclopaedia of Badminton (Pat Davis)
Guinness Book of Badminton (Pat Davis)
International Badminton … the first 75 years (BWF)
International Badminton Federation Handbook (1966 Edition)
World Badminton (Magazine)
-- By Yves Lacroix