Judy Devlin Hashman, Record-Holding Badminton Champion, Dies at 88

Judy Devlin Hashman, who won the all-England badminton singles championships 10 times, more than any other player, man or woman, died on Monday. She was 88.

She died in cancer hospice care in Oxford, England, her son Geoff said.

Before badminton established a world championship or joined the Olympics, the All England Open Badminton Championships was the sport’s pinnacle. Hashman won the women’s singles title in that event for the first time in 1954 at age 18. Then she added nine more, the last in 1967.

Her 10 singles titles are the most for any player. She also won seven women’s doubles titles, six of them with her sister Susan Devlin, later known as Susan Peard.

Judy Devlin was born on Oct. 22, 1935, in Winnipeg, Canada, the daughter of J. Frank Devlin, aa badminton coach who excelled at several sports, and Grace (Steed) Devlin, a scientist who was a good enough tennis player to play doubles at Wimbledon. The family moved to Maryland when she was a child.

Her 17 total titles at the all-England championships is tied for third behind Sir George Thomas and her father, who both played in the 1920s.

She also played field hockey, lacrosse and tennis, but made badminton her No. 1 priority. “I started badminton at age 7, at my choice,” she told the Badminton World Federation in 2020. Her father had suggested tennis, but she “didn’t want that.”

“One of the neighbors was playing badminton in the backyard,” she said. “I can remember so well pointing across and saying: ‘That’s the one I want to play. The one that has the long name.’ But I couldn’t remember the name.”

She recounted how her father would stand at the bottom of a hill, and “I had to throw a ball into his hand without him having to move his arm.”

“It was all guided by the follow-through,” she said. “That’s basically what gave me accuracy in badminton.”

After she married George Cecil Kenneth Hashman, an Englishman known as Dick, who worked for the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, in 1960, she began to enter tournaments under the name Judy Hashman.

She made every all-England final between 1954 and 1967 — except 1965, when she had given birth to Geoff, two months earlier (she still made the fourth round).

She is survived by her sister, Ms. Peard; two sons, Geoff and Joe, and one grandson.

For her final all-England title in 1967, she faced a formidable challenge from Noriko Takagi of Japan, who had defeated her earlier in the year at the Uber Cup, a team competition. In the deciding set, Hashman trailed by 5-1 but fought back to record a 12-10 victory for her 10th title.

Hashman also won 12 U.S. singles titles, the last one in 1967, after which she retired. “I accomplished what I set out to accomplish,” she told Sports Illustrated at the time. “This game takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally. I have nothing more to gain from it. And besides, if you’ve been good in a sport, you don’t like to play to less than your best, and I’m not willing to devote the time it would take to do that.”

Her accomplishments earned her a place in the Badminton Hall of Fame.

Her game was known for its simplicity. “Daddy always thought the simplest shot for anything was the least tiring,” she told Sports Illustrated, “and that there was no point in a fancy windup.”

Because badminton was an amateur sport, there was no way to make a living from it, and she taught English and geography at Josca’s Preparatory School (now Abingdon Prep) in Abingdon, England.

“You didn’t play in it for the money,” she said of the all-England championships in a video interview posted online. “If you played badminton, that was the one thing you wanted to do more than anything else. That was sufficient.”

With expenses, the sport was a net negative financially. “It was a hobby,” she said. “And you spend money on your hobbies — everyone does.”

In retirement, she seldom watched the modern game, she said in a 2020 video posted by the all-England championships. “It’s all fitness; none of us could be so fit,” she said, because the sport had been amateur. “My fitness regime was 10 minutes a day.”

“The idea,” she said, “that ‘Oh you must practice this until you’re vomiting,’ which I’ve heard some coaches say. What nonsense that is. No one should be vomiting.”

In 1970, Hashman appeared on the staple BBC radio program “Desert Island Discs” and selected songs by Mitch Miller, Perry Como and Mario Lanza, with “Camelot” by Richard Burton as her top choice. Her chosen luxury item was a stamp album.

Although tennis champions have always received more attention, Hashman said she had no regrets about her choice.

“Tennis is very slow; you have a lot of time in between to fret,” she told the Badminton World Federation. “Badminton is much quicker, the brain has to keep working all the time, there’s no resting.”

“Once the rally is over, you have to look at the next one immediately,” she added. “You don’t have time to wander around the court and bounce the ball heaven only knows how many times before you serve. You just have to get on with it.”

“Temperamentally, badminton suited me that way,” she said. “I can’t see this beating around the bush, having a lot of time to do things. Just get on with it and be done with it.”

Derrick Taylor contributed reporting from London.

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