Lee Chong Wei top badminton prize-winner at US$292,540

Badzine reveals today the list of top 50 badminton earners based on the prize money which was awarded during the 2013 season for all BWF tournaments. Lee Chong Wei tops […]

Badzine reveals today the list of top 50 badminton earners based on the prize money which was awarded during the 2013 season for all tournaments. Lee Chong Wei tops the bill as expected in the men’s category, with almost US$300,000 in cash while double Olympic champion Zhao Yunlei takes the most lucrative spot in the women’s category thanks to her incredible run in both mixed and women’s doubles events this year.

Photos: Badmintonphoto

The reveal clearly that the Asians are very much on top of the chart as only one European is in the top 10 – Christinna Pedersen (photo), ranked 7th with US$127,596. The Dane fared really well with both her mixed doubles and women’s doubles partner and her double win at the Finals in Kuala Lumpur – where she pocketed US$42,000 that same day – made a difference. Her partner Joachim Fischer Nielsen stands at #21 with US$72,888 won in 2013 while the first singles European shuttler, Jan O Jorgensen, comes in at #31.

China, as expected, is the country which comes on top of the winnings with 7 players in the top 15.

Some surprise however, with very popular players expected to top the bill – such as India’s Saina Nehwal (photo), who only pocketed US$43,408 this year and clearly contrasts with the outstanding endorsement contracts reported on in the Indian press. Lin Dan may be gone from the circuit and not appearing in the top 100 winners, but he may still be the most bankable shuttler on the planet as sources close to him in China talk of 6-figure endorsement contracts for the year.

Not all for players

It is a well known fact that all players are not equal, both in covering their living, training, and travel expenses or getting their share of their prize money. While it is commonly known that most European players get to keep the total of their prize money (except for the local taxes which are, of course, not calculated in this chart), in Asia, the associations get sometimes part of the price money. In China or Korea for instance, it is known that players are awarded some share some of their own prize money – but this is largely compensated for by the fact that all shuttlers did not have to spend anything for their badminton equipment, food, lodging or travel from a very early age. In Indonesia, the recent change in management privileged the shuttlers who could keep more of the prize money and find their own sponsors.

Some governments also give incentives and bonuses, but mostly for major achievements which often go beyond the simple circuit. It is known in Indonesia that players have received a lifetime pension, land or a house after a gold medal in the Olympics. The same goes for Korea, where Olympic champions receive monthly pensions of approximately US$1,000 for life.

These numbers are quite striking as one can see what a badminton player can earn in a year in terms or prize money. It shows that, even if the prize money is going up, it is still difficult for a lot of players to make a living if they only rely on prize money. Without their own sponsors, the help of their federation, their clubs, most wouldn’t be able to afford to travel to tournaments,” says Raphael Sachetat, Chief Editor of Badzine.


One Djokovic to 43 Chong Weis

Badminton remains a sport with lower income than other sports, including less popular ones – and it still very far from tennis, for instance. In 2012, Novak Djokovic scooped US$12.9 million in prize money (Source – Forbes),which is the equivalent to 40 times what Lee Chong Wei has won this year.

But if tennis is well known for its lucrative aspect, some other – and less popular – sports seem to be better off in terms of prize money. In the list published in 2011 by ESPN, some sports have top winners who got more money that year than Lee Chong Wei. Bull-rider Renato Nunes managed to get US$1,500,000 just in prize money in 2011. The dart circuit seems more lucrative as well since Phil Taylor got over US$1 million in winnings in 2010 – more than three times what Malaysia’s top hero won.

Rank Player Nationality Winnings in US$
1 LEE Chong Wei MAS 292,540
2 ZHAO Yunlei CHN 167,195
3 LI Xuerui CHN 143,095
4 ZHANG Nan CHN 142,535
5 LEE Yong Dae KOR 141,445
6 SUNG Ji Hyun KOR 127,875
7 Christinna PEDERSEN DEN 127,596
8 BAO Yixin CHN 116,743
9 KO Sung Hyun KOR 113,790
10 WANG Shixian CHN 112,175
11 WANG Xiaoli CHN 108,644
12 YU Yang CHN 108,644
13 TANG Jinhua CHN 104,870
14 WANG Yihan CHN 104,000
15 CHEN Long CHN 102,850
16 MA Jin CHN 101,318
17 Hendra SETIAWAN INA 96,049
18 Mohammad AHSAN INA 96,049
19 YOO Yeon Seong KOR 76,334
20 TAI Tzu Ying TPE 74,670
21 Joachim FISCHER NIELSEN DEN 72,888
22 DU Pengyu CHN 70,550
23 Liliyana NATSIR INA 67,414
24 Tontowi AHMAD INA 67,180
25 Tommy SUGIARTO INA 63,475
26 Sony Dwi Kuncoro INA 58,690
27 Kamilla RYTTER JUHL DEN 56,443
28 Ratchanok INTANON THA 55,650
29 KIM Ki Jung KOR 53,617
30 WANG Zhengming CHN 52,525
31 Jan O JORGENSEN DEN 51,458
32 Juliane SCHENK GER 50,610
33 KIM Ha Na KOR 49,578
34 BAE Yeon Ju KOR 48,825
35 Kenichi TAGO JPN 47,225
36 JANG Ye Na KOR 47,190
37 Qiu Zihan CHN 44,503
38 Saina NEHWAL IND 43,408
39 LIU Xiaolong CHN 42,743
40 KIM Sa Rang KOR 42,502
41 Porntip BURANAPRASERTSUK THA 42,454
42 XU Chen CHN 42,019
43 Chris ADCOCK ENG 41,648
44 SHIN Baek Cheol KOR 41,408
45 TIAN Qing CHN 39,600
46 Markis KIDO INA 39,374
47 JUNG Kyung Eun KOR 39,109
48 Pia Zebadiah BERNADETH INA 39,065
49 Marc ZWIEBLER GER 38,680
50 Boonsak PONSANA THA 37,840

Note to readers:

All calculations have been done using the data from the official BWF World Rankings, published on the tournamentsoftware.com website. All BWF events have been included in this calculation, including Superseries events, events and the Badminton Asia Championships. Any extra income from invitational tournaments, such as the Copenhagen Masters, and private leagues – such as those in Indonesia, India and China – have been excluded from this list.


Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.