Badminton in Singapore

Badminton was introduced in Singapore in the early 19th century and reached the height of its success in the 1950s. As part of the Malayan team, Singapore clinched the inaugural Thomas Cup in 1949 and retained it in 1952 and 1955, reigning as world champions for almost a decade before losing the Cup to Indonesia in 1958. Members of the winning Thomas Cup team also dominated the sport as individuals: Wong Peng Soon, acknowledged as one of the all-time greatest badminton players, won the All-England singles titles in 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1955, while Ong Poh Lim was the doubles champion in 1952.

Early history
British military officers introduced badminton in Singapore, where it became popular with the British upper class and was picked up by local Eurasians who were regarded as the early sportsmen of the game. The Singapore Badminton Association was established in 1929. In 1931, representatives from the Penang, Selangor and Singapore badminton associations met and passed the resolution that an umbrella body for Malayan badminton associations should be formed. However, it was not until November 1934 that the Malayan Badminton Association was formed, with J. L. Woods, President of the Perak Badminton Association, elected unanimously as the first President.

By the mid-1930s, badminton had become a popular sport throughout Malaya. The ease of setting up badminton courts, whether in a simple hall or on open ground in villages, encouraged the growth of badminton clubs such as the Mayflower Badminton Party, which produced several prominent players. Players were groomed and trained to compete through frequent club competitions and games. In particular, the Malayan Badminton Championships, organised by the Association, attracted some of the best players in Malaya, including Wong Peng Soon, Seah Eng Hee and Alice Pennefeather.

In 1949, the Badminton Associations of Singapore and Malaya sent a combined team to the inaugural Thomas Cup. Led by captain-manager Lim Chuan Geok, and including Wong Peng Soon, Ong Poh Lim and Ooi Teik Hock, the team overwhelmed Denmark 8-1 to clinch the championship title.

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 Peng Soon led the Malayan team to its third consecutive Cup title, defeating Denmark 8-1 at the Singapore Badminton Hall. However, in 1958, Malaya lost the Thomas Cup to Indonesia 3-6. Subsequently, Malaya only reached the semi-finals in the 1964 and 1966 championships.

Post-independence, badminton in Singapore experienced a revival beginning with the 1983 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, when Wong Shoon Keat took the gold medal in the men’s singles. In 1986, Singapore reached the finals of the Thomas Cup for the first time as an independent nation. Singapore later hosted the Seiko World Grand Prix Finals in 1989 and the inaugural Konica Cup tournament in 1991.

At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the Singapore team captured a gold medal in the women’s singles and silver in the mixed team event. The following year, at the 22nd SEA Games, the Singapore team clinched four bronze medals as well as the first-ever gold for the women’s team.

In 2006, the women’s team reached the finals of the Thomas/Uber Cup for the first time. The team also captured silver and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in the same year.

Promoting badminton
Over the years, badminton enthusiasts in Singapore have included some highly regarded members of the community. Promotion and development of the sport has been led by the Singapore Badminton Association, which counts among its past patrons icons such as Aw Boon Haw and Tan Chin Tuan. Notable past presidents include Lim Chuan Geok, captain-manager of the victorious 1949 Thomas Cup team and who oversaw the building of the Singapore Badminton Hall; former president of Singapore Wee Kim Wee, a keen player in his youth; and Lim Swee Say, the former Association president who was publicly moved to tears when Ronald Susilo lost in the quarter-finals of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

In 2000, the Association set out a blueprint for Singapore to qualify for the Thomas and Uber Cup by 2012. The plan included strengthening the talent pipeline by building a multi-generational base of players, recruiting players through local schools, and opening all Association matches to foreign players. More significantly, the Association began acquiring foreign players and coaches including Ronaldo Susilo, Taufik Hidayat, and the latter's coach, Mulyo Handoyo. In 2005, the Association set up a $1.68-million Players’ Development Fund.

Badminton facilities
In the pre- and post-war periods, badminton games and Association meetings were held at the Singapore Volunteer Corps Drill Hall, followed by the Clerical Union Hall. The Singapore Badminton Hall was opened in 1952, and was the site where Malaya defended its Cup title until 1958. In 1986, President Wee Kim Wee officially opened the $5.5-million Badminton Association Club House, located next to the Badminton Hall. In January 2008, the Association relocated to the Singapore Sports School. The Association will move to its permanent home at the Sports Hub in 2011. 

Joanna Tan

Badminton. (1931, April 9). The Straits Times, p. 13.  Retrieved February 21, 2011, from NewspaperSG

Badminton Championships. (1938, March 27). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Badminton Hall for Singapore. (1935, April 21). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG. 

Foo, A. (2007, April 19). Badminton Hall's last days? The Straits Times. Retrieved 19 October 2008 from Factiva.

Growth of amateur sporting association. (1932, January 3). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG. 

Here’s the full list. (1999, December 19). The Straits Times, p. 52. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG. 

Lim deserves well of Malaya. (1949, June 11). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Lim, M. (2004, August 19).
Never mind, my boy. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Low, J. (2003, April 25).
Goodbye to a legend of the court. The Straits Times. Retrieved on January 27, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Malayan Association formed. (1934, November 13). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG. 

Mayflower BP: Cradle of champions. (1948, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG. 

Ong, K. K. (1984). We were great: Thomas Cup badminton. Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Federal Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 796.345 ONG)

Ong, T. C. (1986). Address by Ong Teng Cheong. The official opening of The Singapore Badminton Association Club House, 7th May 1986. Singapore: Singapore Badminton Association.
(Call no.: EPHE 0762v) 

Robert, G. (1994, February 20).
Golden years of badminton need not be misty memories. The Straits Times. Retrieved on January 27, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Salute. (1949, May 5). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Siebel, N. (1958, June 16).
Malaya loses that cup to Indonesia. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Singapore Badminton Association [website]. (2003). History. Retrieved July 11, 2003, from

Singapore Sports Council [website]. (2007). Singapore Badminton Hall. Retrieved May 5, 2010, at

Tan, C. T. (2002). Upholding the legacy: Singapore badminton. Singapore: Asiapac Publication.
(Call no.: YSING 796.345095957 TAN)

Wang, J. (2007, September 25). SBA to get new home at Sports School. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 19, 2008, from Factiva. 

Yap, K. H. (2003, August 17).
Should badminton put all its dreams in one basket? The Straits Times. Retrieved on January 27, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Further resource
Badminton Association of Malaya. (1955).
Thomas Cup Singapore 1955: Souvenir [programme]. [Singapore: Straits Times Press].
(Call no.: RCLOS 796.345 BAD)

The information in this article is valid as at 2011 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.

Badminton (Game)--Singapore
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