Leah Hennel/COC
Leah Hennel/COC

Michelle Li


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 in girls’ doubles 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, Li made her debut at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, where she was also a double gold medallist in women’s singles and doubles. Her doubles partner at that time 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 in singles 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 BWF 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. 

In August 2022, Li returned to the podium at the Commonwealth Games, taking singles silver in Birmingham. Just a couple weeks later, she earned her career-best result at the BWF World Championships, reaching the quarterfinals for the first time.

In July 2023, Li slipped on the court at the Canada Open in Calgary, injuring her knee. She aggravated the injury at the world championships a month later, leading her to undergo surgery that sidelined her for the rest of 2023, forcing her to miss the Pan Am Games in Santiago. After easing into her return to competition, she finished third at the German Open, a BWF Super Tour 300 event in March 2024.   

Li is a six-time singles gold medallist at the Pan American Championships. She is particularly proud that her success over the years has come despite having fewer resources than her top international competitors – many of whom have looked down on her with low expectations. 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… Immigrated to Canada with her family at age 6…

Olympic Highlights

Games Sport Event Finish
London 2012BadmintonDoubles - Women4
London 2012BadmintonSingles - Women17
Rio 2016BadmintonSingles - WomenT-17
Tokyo 2020BadmintonSingles - WomenT-9

Notable International Results

Olympic Games: 2020 - 9th (singles); 2016 ­– 17th (singles); 2012 – 17th (singles), 4th (doubles w/ Bruce)

BWF World Championships: 2023 Rd of 32 (singles); 2022 – QFs (singles); 2021 – Rd of 16 (singles); 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: 2022 – SILVER (singles); 2018 – 4th (singles); 2014 – GOLD (singles); 2010 ­- 5th (singles)

Pan American Championships: 2024 – SILVER (singles); 2023 – GOLD (singles); 2022 – GOLD (singles); 2019 – GOLD (singles); 2018 – GOLD (singles); 2017 – QFs (singles); 2014 – GOLD (singles); 2013 – GOLD (singles); 2010 – SILVER (singles)