Wong Peng Soon



Wong Peng Soon (b. 17 February, 1917, Johor Baru, Malaya–22 May 1996, Singapore)1 is acknowledged as one of the greatest badminton players of all time. He was a four-time winner of the All-England singles title as well as a member of the Malayan teams that dominated the Thomas Cup from the late 1940s to the late ’50s.2

Background
Wong was born in Johor Bahru, Malaya, into a large and wealthy family with a love of badminton. Among his siblings, one sister and five brothers were also prominent badminton players.3 Throughout his career, Wong was a tenacious competitor known for his well-crafted strokes and graceful footwork.4 He made it a point to study his opponents before playing against them. Off the court, he was a disciplinarian who adhered to a rigorous training routine that included sessions of skipping lasting more than an hour. He maintained a strict diet and never stayed out late in the evening.5

In his teens, Wong joined the Mayflower Badminton Party in Singapore, where his meteoric rise began.6 After his marriage to Doreen Poi Chim Neo on 3 August 1947, he moved from Johor Baru to Singapore.7

Career highlights
Nicknamed “The Great Wong”,8 Wong excelled at singles badminton. He rose rapidly to the top of men’s badminton in Malaya, where he was crowned the Malayan Open singles champion eight times (1940, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953).9 He also held the Singapore Open title seven times (1938, 1939, 1940, 1947, 1948 , 1949 and 1951).10 He was the first Asian to win the All-England championship, a feat he repeated four times (1950, 1951, 1952 and 1955). Wong’s most remarkable accomplishments, however, are considered to be the three Thomas Cup titles that Malaya held between 1949 and 1955.11

In 1949, the badminton associations of Singapore and Malaya sent a combined team to the inaugural Thomas Cup. Singapore was represented by Wong and Ong Poh Lim. On the 28-day steamship journey to the tournament in Preston, England, Wong and his teammates were forced to find ways to maintain their fitness levels by training on board the ship. The team’s progress to the final was marred by Wong’s semi-final loss to David Freeman, the only player ever to beat Wong in a Thomas Cup match. In addition, Wong sustained an injury during the match that prevented him from playing in the cup final. Led by captain-manager Lim Chuan Geok, the team eventually overwhelmed Denmark 8-1 to clinch the championship title.12

At the 1952 Thomas Cup championship, the Malayan team defeated America 7-2 to retain the cup. The team on this occasion included veterans Wong and Ong as well as Ismail Marjan. In 1955, Wong led the Malayan team to its third and last cup title, defeating Denmark 8-1 at the Singapore Badminton Hall. This achievement was considered remarkable because Wong was 37 years old at the time, an age by which most badminton players were considered past their prime.13

Wong’s great rival during his career was his contemporary Ong. While Wong was supreme in the singles game, Ong was considered a more versatile player because of his achievements in both the singles and doubles games. Wong was unable to defeat Ong in championship doubles matches, and on several occasions, also lost notable singles matches to the latter.14

Wong retired from competitive badminton after the 1955 Thomas Cup championship. He turned professional the same year and became a badminton coach for the Singapore Youth Centre.15 He coached the Malayan team in its bid to retain the Thomas Cup in 1958, but Malaya lost the title to Indonesia.16 Wong later took up coaching stints in Thailand, Canada and Japan as well as at the Haarlem Badminton Club in Holland in 1966.17

Honours
In 1956, Wong was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sports in Malaya, the first Singaporean athlete to receive the honour.18

The following year, the International Badminton Federation Handbook placed Wong on its list of “immortal players of the past”, putting him in the company of other badminton greats such as George Thomas, after whom the Thomas Cup was named, and David Freeman.19

In 1962, in the first-ever list of National Day honours, Wong was awarded the Sijil Kemuliaan (Certificate of Honour), the nation’s second-highest award and the highest award ever bestowed on a sports personality.20

In 1985, the International Badminton Federation conferred on Wong the Distinguished Service Award for his services to the sport. The award was presented at a luncheon held at the well-known Fatty Weng’s Restaurant at the clubhouse of the Singapore Badminton Association at Guillemard Road.21

Wong was posthumously inducted into the Singapore Sports Museum Hall of Fame in 1986 and the International Badminton Federation (now called the Badminton World Federation) Hall of Fame in 1999.22

In 1999, Wong emerged the winner ­– ahead of Olympic silver medallist weightlifter Tan Howe Liang – in The Sunday Times’ ranking of the top 50 athletes in Singapore, and was named Singapore’s greatest athlete. At a ceremony organised by the newspaper, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong presented the award to Wong’s widow.23

Death
In November 1981, Wong suffered a stroke and partial paralysis.24 Although he regained mobility and continued to travel to badminton tournaments in the region, his health slowly declined. Wong was bedridden in his final years, and passed away from pneumonia on 22 May 1996, at the age of 78.25


Family
Wife:
Doreen Poi Chim Neo

Children: Patricia, Audrey, Dennis26



Author

Joanna Tan



References
1.《羽总举行庆功宴并祝黄秉璇生日》. (1988, February 16). 《联合早报》 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 12; 《50年代羽坛红人黄秉璇患肺炎逝世》. (1996, May 23). 《联合早报》 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 1286. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU); Here’s the full list. (1999, December 19). The Straits Times, p. 52; Rajendran, J. (1986, April 2). IBF honour Peng Soon. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 1286. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU); Death of Mrs. Wong Ah Yam. (1935, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. A Legend in his time. (1996, May 23). Retrieved 2016, August 6 from New Straits Times website: https://news.google.com/newspapers nid=1309&dat=19960523&id=dnpaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rR4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6289,1279005&hl=en
5. Goodbye, Peng Soon. (1996, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Goodbye, Peng Soon. (1996, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Champion married. (1947, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lee, S. Y. (1949, February 1). Cup men have achieved much. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Eight not enough as Chong Wei eyes Olympic gold. (2012, January 15). Retrieved 2016, August 6 from Badminton World Federation website: http://www.bwfbadminton.org/news_item.aspx?id=57843
10. At 37 it's time to quit, says Wong Peng Soon. (1955 July 15). The Straits Times, p.14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with National Heritage Board, p. 592. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Low, J. (1985, February 17). Cheers to you, champ. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Ong, K. K. (1984). We were great: Thomas cup badminton. Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Federal Publications, pp. 13–28. (Call no.: RSING 796.345 ONG)
13. Ong, K. K. (1984). We were great: Thomas cup badminton. Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Federal Publications, pp. 47–64. (Call no.: RSING 796.345 ONG)
14. Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 841. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
15. Peng Soon’s decision: Time to quit. (1955, July 15). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. BAM to ‘drop’ coach Wong. (1958, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
17. New job for Peng Soon in Holland. (1966, August 12). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. 3 Malayans knighted. (1956, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 1; Go the Kiwi way. (1999, December 19). The New Paper, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Peng Soon is among ‘Immortals of past’. (1957, February 10). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Low, J. (1985, February 17). Cheers to you, champ. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Badminton World Federation. (n.d.). Distinguished Service Award recipients. Retrieved 2016, August 6 from Badminton World Federation website: http://www.bwfbadminton.org/file.aspx?id=645627&dl=1; Rajendran. J. (1986, April 2). IBF honour Peng Soon. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Sim, A., & Rajendran, J. (1987, December 20). Museum mirrors magical moments and the story of glory. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Badminton World Federation. (n.d.). Hall of Fame members. Retrieved 2016, August 6 from Badminton World Federation website: http://www.bwfbadminton.org/file.aspx?id=680909&dl=1.
23. Go the Kiwi way. (1999, December 19). The New Paper, p. 64; The top ten. (1999, December 19). The New Paper, p. 64; Murali, S. (1999, December 19). Peng Soon named S’pore’s greatest athlete. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tan, S. (1981, November 19). Ex-shuttle star Wong Peng Soon suffers stroke. New Nation, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Dorai, J. (1996, May 23). Wong Peng Soon, 78, dies of pneumonia. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Obituary: Wong Peng Soon. (1996, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Athletes--Singapore--Biography
Personalities
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Wong, Peng Soon, 1918-1996
Personalities>>Biographies
Badminton players--Singapore--Biography
Sports, recreation and travel>>Indoor games
Sports, recreation and travel>>Ball games>>Racket games>>Badminton