John Edward "Jack" Purcell (December 24, 1903 – June 10, 1991) was a Canadian world champion badminton player. Purcell was the Canadian National Badminton Champion in 1929 and 1930 and declared as world champion in 1933. He retired in 1945, and pursued a career as a stockbroker. Purcell also designed an athletic shoe that bears his name, which is still popular today.
Born in Guelph, Ontario, Purcell excelled at tennis and golf as a child. He took up badminton in 1924, and rose quickly in Ontario's amateur ranks. Purcell won five consecutive Ontario championships from 1927 to 1931, and was the Canadian National Badminton Champion in 1929 and 1930. Purcell became the leading badminton player in Canada, which led him to write a badminton column for the Toronto Star. In 1931, Purcell traveled to England, having beaten all his competitors in Canada. There, he won the Surrey Doubles but got only as far as the semi-finals in the All-England Championships.
World badminton champion
After his trip to England, Purcell returned to Canada only to learn that he was stripped of his amateur status. The Canadian Badminton Association claimed that his Toronto Star articles made him a paid professional. As a professional badminton player, however, Purcell beat all the leading players in the world by 1932. He was declared world champion in 1933 based on his beating the top Canadian, American and British badminton players. His world championship status was challenged numerous times, but Purcell remained unbeaten until his retirement in 1945.
Retirement and later years
In 1950, the Canadian Press named Purcell as Canada’s Outstanding Athlete of the 20th Century in the miscellaneous sports category. He was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1973 despite having never played in the Olympic Games. At the time of his induction badminton was still not an Olympic sport. In 1955, he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
Purcell designed a canvas and rubber badminton sneaker for the B.F. Goodrich Company of Canada in 1935. He designed the shoe to provide more protection and support on badminton courts. In the 1970s, Converse purchased the trademark rights to Jack Purcell sneakers - which it still produces and sells today. The shoe, which is similar in appearance to Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Stars, can be distinguished by the signature "smile" across the toe. Converse "Jack Purcells" are still popular - but more for their vintage fashion appeal than for athletic use.
- Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. "Honoured Members: Jack Purcell". Retrieved 2009-03-29.
- Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. "Jack Purcell's First Toronto Star Badminton Column". Retrieved 2009-03-29.
- Perrin, Charles. "Charlie's Sneaker Pages, "Old Sneakers (since 1935) - Goodrich (now Converse) Jack Purcell"". Retrieved 2009-03-24
- Hayes, Tracy (1994-01-25). "Chicago Tribune (01/25/1994): Low-Priced Retro Sneakers are Sole Surviviors - Basic Athletic Shoes from the Past are Winning another Generation of Fans.". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-03-29