The great badminton legend Erland Kops passed away overnight at the age 80.
Erland Kops has one of the longest lists of titles in badminton history. Always a gentleman, he won an incredible 19 national and over 80 international titles. With seven crowns in singles and four in doubles on his badminton resume, he is the most successful Danish player in the history of the All England Championships. Only Rudy Hartono has beaten his record in singles at the All England Championships.
Kops was also the first European to win titles in the Far East and undoubtedly the dominant player on the world scene throughout the entire 1960s. At the height of his career, he managed to win 14 international titles in a single year (1967).
Despite being a singles specialist, he also established himself as an exceptional player in all three events. His first international title was in mixed doubles at the 1957 German Open. He clinched many more international titles in men’s and mixed doubles with as many as 25 different partners.
As a tireless athlete and great lover of the sport, Erland Kops continued to collect the honors in veteran competition until the 1980s. After his career as a player, he shifted his focus to the development of Danish badminton as a selector and team manager for Badminton Danmark.
Erland Kop’s Career
It did not take long for Erland Kops to take the international badminton scene by storm. Four years before even snatching his first national senior title, the bearded Dane was fighting for his first title at the 1957 All England Championships, the first one to be held at the iconic Wembley Arena in London. Unfortunately, he fell short of victory and conceded the title to the more experienced Eddy Choong.
In 1958, Kops moved to Asia to fill a job position with the East Asiatic Company in Thailand and made the most of his new environment by observing and integrating part of the Asian style to his game. This new addition to his power and precision completed a lethal arsenal that allowed him to be the first Westerner to defeat Asian players in their own countries. In fact, Kops even became the Indian and Thai national champion in 1959!
Kops came back to the All England Championships in 1958 with a vengeance and the 21-year old defeated his friend, Finn Kobberø, in the finals to win the first of his seven titles in men’s singles. With this win, Kops put an end to the Malaysian reign of eight consecutive All England Singles titles won by Eddy Choong and Wong Peng Soon.
It was also in 1958 that the former U16 and U18 Danish national champion decided to double his fame overnight. At his first ever victorious All England, Kops and his partner, Poul-Erik Nielsen, also managed to add a golden All England men’s doubles title to their repertoire.
Kops lost the title the next year to Tan Joe Hock but the Dane came back on top in 1960 to win the next four titles.
This was just the first chapter of a very illustrious career. The tireless retriever – who was said to train in a weighted waistcoat – became the most successful Danish men’s singles player in the history of the very prestigious All England Championships. With his seven-time All England winning record, he was only surpassed by Rudy Hartono who won one more title than the Dane.
Even though his record at the All England has remained at the top of his list of accomplishments, one can only marvel at his very long list of titles at the various tournaments he entered: the French, the Swiss, the US, the German, the Canadian, and the Swedish Opens – he won them all.
His nine titles (5 in Singles, 4 in Doubles) at the Nordic Games combined with his other nine Danish national titles confirmed that he was the dominant player of the 1960s.
Kops had more success in Singles but as for many talented players of his era – he also has a very enviable record in Doubles as well. He won the All England men’s doubles title with two different partners. As mentioned earlier, he won his first All England doubles title with Poul-Erik Nielsen. His other partnership with Henning Borch was even more successful, and the pair held the All England men’s doubles title from 1967 to 1969.
Few players have been able to stay at the top for as long as Erland Kops. From his first international mixed doubles title with Agnete Friis at the 1957 German Open to his last senior title at the 1971 Nordic Games with Svend Pri, Kops easily maintained his position at the top of the world for 14 years.
During his All England campaign in 1967, the 30-year old Kops was described as having won the All England by “employing great strength in cross-court backhand clears and delicacy in drops and net shots. In 10 games, he had only one double figure score against him.”
Furthermore, to explain his success on the court, Kops defined himself as a proponent of these basic mottos: “Play against opponents better than yourself – but you must be physically fit enough to benefit from it. Strong legs and ankles are absolutely essential. Always be aggressive; kill the rally at the first opportunity.” One of his former training partners once said that Kops had a backhand sometimes more powerful than his forehand and that his will to win was amazing.
Kops applied these mottos over four decades. The Dane who had won U16 and U18 in the 1950s completed his collections of trophies and medals with veteran titles in doubles at the 1982 All England Veterans competition as well as 40+ and 50+ titles in Denmark.
Over his badminton career, Kops represented Denmark 44 times in international team competition from 1957 to 1972. Despite his success in individual competition, Kops was not able to replicate it in team events. He and the Danish team came very close to winning what would have been Denmark’s first and only Thomas Cup title but Kops lost three out of his four matches during the final against Indonesia.
The bearded Dane may have left serious international competition in 1973 but he kept himself informed about the sport. He became involved with the restaurant business in Copenhagen and he traded his racket skills for culinary skills. He also acted as a selector and team manager for the Danish federation.
It is fitting that the first European player to win major titles in the Far East also became the first member of the Badminton Europe Confederation Hall of Fame. This honor was awarded to him in 2013.
The Danish legend was also inducted into the BWF Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2016, he was awarded the BWF Lifetime Achievement Award.
Erland Kops never lost interest in badminton and continued to attend matches of the Danish Badmintonligaen on a regular basis up to very recently.
Awards and Honours
- 1961 – BT Gold Medal for Sportsman of the year
- 1985 – IBF Distinguished Service Award
- 1989 – IBF Herbert Scheele Trophy
- 1992 – Honorary Member of the Danish Sports Federation
- 1996 – Elected the second best sportsman of the century in Denmark
- 1997 – IBF Hall of Fame
- 2000 – Badminton Danmarks ærestegn (Badminton Denmark Honorary Award)
- 2000 – Badminton Danmarks fortjensttegn (Badminton Denmark Meritorious Award)
- 2002 – Order of the Dannebrog (Knighthood from Queen Margrethe II of Denmark)
- 2013 – Badminton Europe Confederation Hall of Fame
- 2016 – BWF Lifetime Achievement Award (Related Story)
- Honorary Member of the Copenhagen Badminton Club
Written by Yves Lacroix