Learning from the ‘sifu’: Eddy Choong (right) training the players when he was the Penang coach in 1985.
KUALA LUMPUR: He stood at five feet four inches but to the badminton world, Datuk Eddy Choong was the giant of his era.
Yesterday, the 82-year-old Eddy (born on May 29, 1930) passed away in a private hospital at Penang after bleeding in the stomach – to leave all Malaysians mourning over the death of another great badminton icon.
Two other greats – Eddy’s talented brother David and the legendary Datuk Punch Gunalan – also passed on due to illness in 2011 and 2012 respectively. All of them left behind a rich badminton legacy for the newer generation to embrace.
Eddy was the country’s star of the All-England tournament. He had won it seven times – four singles crowns in 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1957 – and three doubles titles with David in 1951, 1952 and 1953.
In fact, he is the only Malaysian player to win both the singles and doubles titles in the same year of the oldest tournament – in 1953. He was also a member of the 1955 Thomas Cup-winning team.
And the player – dubbed as the Pocket Rocket, Mighty Midget, Mighty Atom and Jumping Jack to name a few – because of his small stature but explosive moves on court – ruled the world of badminton during the 1950s-1960s, winning numerous international titles.
After his playing days, Eddy ventured into coaching and was known as a great inventor of badminton shots.
Former Thomas Cup champion and two-time All England winner Datuk Tan Yee Khan recalled the times when he stayed in Eddy’s house for three months hoping to learn the tricks of the trade from his “sifu”.
“I was 17 years old when I went to stay with him in Penang. I respected him because he was smart and had great knowledge of the game. And he was willing to teach all he knew about the game. I remember all those long hours of advice and also the painful and gruelling hill training,” said Yee Khan.
“As a player, he had invented a lot of badminton shots like the attacking lob. He would send the serve high enough to give him time to run back and take position against his opponent.
“I remember this one funny incident too. His opponents especially the English players were wary of him and some of them wanted to know whether Eddy had springs hidden in his shoes because he could jump so high.
“When I became a national coach, I did not forget his words of wisdom. I implemented some of his moves and techniques. He had been a mentor and a friend. He will be deeply missed,” added the 73-year-old Yee Khan.
The friendly and charming Eddy was also well-known among the international fraternity. One of the awards given by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) for their promising players had been named after him – Eddy Choong Player of the Year award.
BWF’s chief operating officer Thomas Lund said Eddy knew the whole history of badminton.
“I consider him the most loyal and faithful badminton player, coach and fan.
“His knowledge of the game was immense. He was also a dear friend of mine,” said Lund.
Lund added that the All-England had a special place in Eddy’s heart.
“During my playing days, I saw him in every All-England. When I joined the BWF, he was also a regular spectator there.
“He always had badminton on his mind. He loved the game.”
Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) secretary Ng Chin Chai said: “We are very sad over his passing. He has contributed so much to the game and is truly an icon.
“At one stage, he was the BAM’s head coach of the women’s team. He was also the deputy president of the Penang BA for many years.
“For his wealth of knowledge, BAM had also appointed him to lead the think-tank committee. He contributed his ideas to help rejuvenate the sport. Most of our BAM officials will be heading to Penang to pay our last respects.”
Published: Monday January 28, 2013 MYT 3:48:00 PM
Updated: Monday January 28, 2013 MYT 9:18:13 PM
By EDDIE CHUA
Choong showing one of his many trophies during a recent interview
GEORGETOWN: Badminton great Datuk Eddy Choong, a four-time All-England singles champion, passed away Monday. He was 82.
A family member said Choong died at 3pm at Loy Guan Lye Hospital here, where he had been warded for almost a week.
The octogenarian was All-England champion in 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1957. He was a finalist in 1952 and 1957, and won the doubles titles with his brother David from 1951 to 1953.
He was also a member of the 1955 Malayan Thomas Cup team which retained the world team championship, and the 1958 team which surrendered the title to Indonesia. Choong was inducted into the Badminton Hall of Fame in 1997.
Choong, 83, leaves behind wife Datin Maggie Choong, four sons and five grandchildren.
His eldest son, Finn Choong, 53, told Bernama that his father was admitted to the hospital after he vomited.
"The doctor had allowed him to be discharged on Monday. However, he experienced complications and stopped breathing. The doctor found his stomach bleeding," he told reporters at his house in Jalan Bell.
He said his father who dearly loved badminton, was due to attend the All-England competition in Birmingham in March to support the national team.
Meanwhile, Maggie, 79, expressed her gladness at the coming of the media to cover her husband's death.
"I am very happy to see all of you still remember him. For many many years he always loved all the reporters. He was very proud of you all. I think he will be very happy now if he can see you," she said.
His remains will be cremated at the Batu Gantung Crematorium here at 2pm on Friday.
In KUALA LUMPUR, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) general manager Kenny Goh said he was informed of Choong's death by the latter's family members.
"It is saddening news and a big loss for the badminton fraternity. BAM and I extend our condolences to his family," he said.
I agreed with Pakito wholeheartedly. We have many great players from yesteryears, it's definitely a huge mistake and waste if BAM do not seek them for input while they are more than happy and willing to contribute their ideas. Now that we have lost Eddy, David and Punch, we can only remember them in our memories.
One of the very few who did listen to him was Punch Gunalan, who has also RIP. It funny to note that Nadzmi admitted Eddy as a person who freely came forward and gave a piece of his mind. He also added that Eddy said thing straightforwardly but politely. I think it was another way of Nadzmi to say that it was 'unsolicited advice'? Is this his way of poignantly refering to being not listening to Eddy? I don't know, whether this is true or not, we all know that Eddy had said in an interview what he felt was going wrong in BAM, and is still going on in BAM till today. So it is understood that BAM did not listen.