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Rules of the Game: Badminton

The game is much like tennis, but that birdie travels much faster than you may think.

Chances are pretty good you've played Badminton in your high school physical education class, at a backyard barbecue or at the beach. But if it's been awhile, here's a refresher of the rules.

This is very much like tennis or table tennis, but instead of getting a ball over the net, the competitors are trying to hit a shuttlecock or "birdie." It's an open, cone-shaped object with goose feathers embedded in a cork base.

Those shuttlecocks can fly faster than you might realize. The fastest badminton shot hit in competition traveled an astounding 264.7 mph, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. By comparison, the fastest recorded tennis serve was 163.4 mph.

A match is a best-of-three game series. Each game is played to 21. If the game is tied at 20, the first person with a 2-point lead wins. If the game is tied at 29, the first person to 30 wins. You can score a point whether you are serving or receiving.

The shuttlecock needs to land in bounds on the court on the opponents' side of the net to earn a point. If the judges cannot determine where the birdie landed, a “let” is called and the point is replayed.

There are singles, doubles and mixed doubles tournaments at the Olympics. In doubles play, it’s often a strategy to focus the attack on the weakest player of the opposing team.

Players from Asia and Europe tend to be among the top in the world. Only one U.S. player, Beiwen Zhang, is among the top 25 in any singles or doubles rankings in the Badminton World Federation.