Wong Peng Soon
黄秉璇
Personal information
Nickname(s)Great Wong[1]
CountryMalaya
Singapore
Born(1917-02-17)17 February 1917[2]
Johor Bahru, Malaya
Died22 May 1996(1996-05-22) (aged 79)[3]
Singapore
HandednessRight[4]
Medal record

Wong Peng Soon, MBE SK (simplified Chinese: 黄秉璇; traditional Chinese: 黃秉璇; pinyin: Huáng Bǐng Xuán; 17 February 1917 – 22 May 1996) was a Malayan/Singaporean badminton player who reigned as a top player in Malaya from the 1930s to the 1950s when it was a single nation. Noted for his smooth but powerful strokes and graceful footwork,[5] he won the singles title seven times in Singapore and eight times in Malaya during this period, as well as being the top player in the All England, the Danish Open, the Indian Open, and the Philippines Open to name a few.

Acknowledged as one of the greatest badminton players of all time, he won the All England singles title four times in only five attempts and dominated the Thomas Cup in the late 1940s to the mid 1950s as a member of the Malayan teams.[1] Wong's great rival during his career was his contemporary Ong Poh Lim.[6]

Early life

Wong was born into a large and wealthy family in Johor Bahru, Malaya. He was the seventh son of Mr Wong Ah Yam and Madam Mak Qui Tong. His granduncle is Wong Ah Fook,[7] who was a good friend of Sultan Abu Bakar and was the contractor responsible for the construction of Istana Besar. Wong has nine brothers and seven sisters. Of his siblings, five brothers and one sister were also prominent Johore badminton players.[8] The family stayed in a big mansion in Jalan Ah Siang, Johor Bahru.

Badminton career

Having grown up in a family with a love for badminton, Wong started playing the sport since young. His career began when he joined Mayflower Badminton Party[9] as a teenager where he won numerous club and interstate competitions. He excelled in the singles event and quickly rose to become a household name in Singapore and Malaya.

In 1938, Wong won his first Singapore Open singles title and went on to win the tournament six more times in 1939, 1941, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951.[1]

Wong also captured his first two Malaysia Open singles titles in 1940 and 1941 before a break due to World War II prevented him from continuing his career until 1947 when he once again won the crown. He then won five titles in a row from 1949 to 1953, until his run was stopped by Ong Poh Lim in 1954. His eight Malaysian singles titles were also a long-standing international circuit record jointly held by the legendary Rudy Hartono (eight-time All England champion) and Morten Frost (eight-time Denmark Open champion) till it was broken by Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in 2013.[10]

In 1950, he became the first Asian to win the All-England Championships, and won the title again in 1951, 1952, and 1955, earning him an international reputation as the "Great Wong".[11] He was also a member of the victorious Malayan Thomas Cup teams of 1949, 1952, and 1955, serving as captain of the last.[2][12] His achievements in 1955 were remarkable because he was 38 years old at the time, an age by which most badminton players were considered past their prime.[13]

Wong also won the Denmark Open men's singles title in 1951,[14] the India Open men's singles and men's doubles titles with Abdullah Piruz in 1951[15] and the Philippines Open men's singles and men's doubles titles with Cheong Hock Leng in 1952.[16]

Wong retired from competitive badminton after the 1955 Thomas Cup.[17] He became a badminton coach for the Singapore Youth Sports Centre.[18] He also coached the Malayan team in its bid to retain the Thomas Cup in 1958, when Malaya lost the title to Indonesia.[19] Wong later took up coaching stints in Thailand, Canada, India and Japan, as well as at the Haarlem Badminton Club of Holland in 1966.[20]

Professionalism

Wong was an advocate of strong work ethic, physical fitness, and mental preparation. He will cycle from Johor to Singapore just for training even though it was many kilometers away.[7][21] He was a disciplinarian who adhered to a routine of rigorous training that included sessions of skipping lasting more than an hour.[22] Wong always studied his opponents before playing against them.[1] He was renowned for maintaining a strict diet and he never stayed out late in the evening.[1][21] He was also known for being very protective of his own equipment to the point of stringing and repairing his own rackets.[1][23]

Personal life

Wong married Doreen Poi Chim Neo at a church in Seremban on 3 August 1947[24] and moved to Singapore shortly after.[1] They lived at a single-storey home in Jalan Jarak, Seletar Hills[21] and had two daughters and a son.[1]

Wong suffered a stroke in 1981 which left him partially paralysed. Although he regained mobility, his health slowly declined thereafter.[25]

Death

Wong died on 22 May 1996 at Toa Payoh Hospital, Singapore, at the age of 79, due to pneumonia.[3] His wake was attended by the officials from Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) as well as then Minister for Community Development, Abdullah Tarmugi.[26] A one-hour Mass was also held at the Church of St Vincent de Paul where Wong had worshipped. More than 150 relatives and friends gathered to bid a final farewell to Wong at the Mount Vernon Crematorium where he was cremated.[27]

Awards

In 1956, Wong's contribution to the sport was recognised when he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).[28] In 1962, he made local history as the first and still the only sportsperson to date to be awarded the Sijil Kemuliaan (Certificate of Honour) by the Government of Singapore.[29]

In 1985, the International Badminton Federation (IBF) awarded Wong the Distinguished Services Award for his services to the sport.[30][31] In 1986, Wong was inducted into the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) Sports Museum Hall of Fame.[32]

Three years after his death, the International Badminton Federation (IBF) inducted him into its Hall of Fame posthumously in May 1999.[33] Then chairman of the IBF, H R Ward, commented, that "Wong was one of the most remarkable players" and "had enhanced the sport through exceptional achievements". In a Straits Times poll of 2000, Wong was voted as Singapore's "Sports Personality of the Century".[34] The Olympic Council of Malaysia inducted Wong into its Hall of Fame in 2004.[35]

Achievements

Year Tournament Discipline Result
1940 Malaysia Open[2] Men's singles Winner
1941 Malaysia Open (2)[2] Men's singles Winner
1947 Malaysia Open (3)[2] Men's singles Winner
1949 Malaysia Open (4)[2] Men's singles Winner
1949 Thomas Cup[36] Team Winner
1950 All England[11] Men's singles Winner
1950 Malaysia Open (5)[2] Men's singles Winner
1951 All England (2)[11] Men's singles Winner
1951 Malaysia Open (6)[2] Men's singles Winner
1951 Denmark Open[14] Men's singles Winner
1951 India Open[15] Men's singles Winner
1951 India Open (2)[15] Men's doubles Winner
1952 All England (3)[11] Men's singles Winner
1952 Malaysia Open (7)[2] Men's singles Winner
1952 Thomas Cup (2)[36] Team Winner
1952 Philippines Open[16] Men's singles Winner
1952 Philippines Open (2)[16] Men's doubles Winner
1953 Malaysia Open (8)[2] Men's singles Winner
1955 All England (4)[11] Men's singles Winner
1955 Thomas Cup (3)[36] Team Winner

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Wong Peng Soon". National Library Board. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Low, Jeffrey (17 February 1985). "Cheers to you, champ". The Straits Times. p. 24.
  3. ^ a b Dorai, Joe (23 May 1996). "Wong Peng Soon, 78, dies of pneumonia". The Straits Times. p. 3.
  4. ^ "Wong Peng Soon". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  5. ^ Pat Davis, The Guinness Book of Badminton (Enfield, Middlesex, England: Guinness Superlatives Ltd., 1983) 159.
  6. ^ "Poh Lim beats Peng Soon again - in two sets this time". The Straits Times. 31 January 1955.
  7. ^ a b Leo Suryadinata ed., Southeast Asian Personalities Of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary (ISEAS, Singapore, 2012) 1286 - 1288.
  8. ^ "Death Of Mrs. Wong Ah Yam". The Straits Times. 28 August 1935.
  9. ^ "Mayflower Badminton Party". The Straits Times. 12 January 1936.
  10. ^ "Eight not enough as Chong Wei eyes Olympic gold". Badminton World Federation. 15 January 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d e "All England Badminton Championships Winners" (PDF). Allenglandbadminton.com. June 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Wong elected captain of Thomas Cup team". The Straits Times. 18 April 1955.
  13. ^ "About The Singapore Badminton Association". Singapore Badminton Association.
  14. ^ a b "Denmark Open past winners". Badmintondenmark.com. 22 August 2015. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  15. ^ a b c "Peng Soon Too Good". The Singapore Free Press. 11 July 1951.
  16. ^ a b c "Wong takes P.L titles". The Singapore Free Press. 17 June 1952.
  17. ^ "At 37 It's Time to Quit, Says Wong Peng Soon". The Straits Times. 15 July 1955.
  18. ^ "Loke makes personal three-year agreement with Malayan ace". The Straits Times. 9 October 1955.
  19. ^ "'Don't Blame Me' Says Peng Soon". Sunday Standard. 13 July 1958.
  20. ^ "New job for Peng Soon in Holland". The Straits Times. 12 August 1966.
  21. ^ a b c "A legend in his time". New Straits Times. 23 May 1996.
  22. ^ "Dr Oon Chong Teik: Shuttlecock and Stethoscope". Oon Chong Teik. 31 October 2003. Archived from the original on 1 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Wong Peng Soon". Yves Lacroix. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  24. ^ "Champion Married". The Straits Times. 3 August 1947.
  25. ^ Suk-wai Cheong, Sound Of Memories, The: Recordings From The Oral History Centre, Singapore (National Archives Singapore & World Scientific, Singapore, 2019) 218 - 219.
  26. ^ "Abdullah: Another Peng Soon?". The Straits Times. 25 May 1996. p. 40.
  27. ^ Chan, Cecilia (27 May 1996). "Last farewell to maestro Wong". The Straits Times. p. 32.
  28. ^ "3 Malyans Knighted". The Straits Times. 2 January 1956.
  29. ^ "National Day Honours". The Straits Times. 3 June 1962.
  30. ^ "BWF Distinguished Service Award Recipients". Badminton World Federation. 1985.
  31. ^ "IBF honour Peng Soon". The Straits Times. 2 April 1986.
  32. ^ "World-class sportsmen win top spot in Hall of Fame". The Straits Times. 3 August 1986.
  33. ^ "BWF Hall of Fame Members". Badminton World Federation. 1999.
  34. ^ "The Greatest". The Straits Times. 19 December 1999.
  35. ^ "OCM Hall of Fame". Olympic Council of Malaysia. 2004.
  36. ^ a b c "Thomas Cup past winners". Victorsport.com. 15 October 2014.