Friday, February 1, 2013

Farewell Eddy

It was a great pity that my meetings with Datuk Eddy Choong were few and far between. Otherwise I would have penned a personal perspective when asked by a friend to pen an article on the legend for a souvenir programme not long ago. But based on the conversations I had then, one could only conclude that Eddy was a source of inspiration for many who went on to shape Malaysian badminton.

The Father of Malaysian badminton passed away on Monday, with the New Straits Times giving him a proper tribute.

And it is fitting for the academy soon to be established is named after Eddy, who could have opted to play football, rugby or be active in track and field. Read the pouring tributes Eddy Choong dies,
Academy to be named after Eddygreat inventor of shotsthe Bernama reportobituary by BWF and OCM's Hall of Fame

Allow me to share my article in the souvenir programme:


He stood five feet four inches. But Eddy Choong stood like a giant during his heydays, a gigantic figure in the world of badminton.

Throughout the 1950s, opponents and journalists around the globe were fond of attaching nicknames to Eddy.

Mighty Atom, Mighty Midget and Jumping Jack were liberally used to describe the pocket dynamite who was a bundle of acrobatics on the court.

Before Liem Swie King and Hariyanto Arbi made jumping smash fashionable, Eddy was the personification of agility.

He could hurl himself into the air before sending a sharp smash beyond the outstretched arms of the opponent.

Born Eddy Choong Ewe Beng on May 29, 1930, he was the third son of Datuk Choong Eng Hye and Lily Ho, who have both since passed away.

He was the fourth chld in the family and had three brothers and two sisters. His brothers Louis, David and Freddy were no slouch in sports.

Louis who has since passed away, was a one-handicap golfer who had represented Malaya in the Eisenhower Cup.

David, one year older, won three successive All England doubles titles from 1951-53.

Younger brother Freddy represented the country in shooting. Eng Hye the patriarch was a keen footballer and Penang Free School headboy who was a team mate to Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj.

Eddy’s sporting inclinations, so to speak, were in the genes.

However Eddy was not encouraged to take up sports. His father wanted Eddy to help him run the vast family business.

“When I was seven, my father used to take me out and show me the footballers riding bicycles and selling kacang putih (peanuts/tidbits). 

“He wanted to discourage me from taking up sports by showing me there was no future in it. Fortunately I was a rebel. And my parents eventually gave in to my compulsion,” Eddy recalled in the book Way of the Champions, Secrets of their Success.

Eddy went on to win seven All England titles - four singles titles – in 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1957 – three men’s doubles titles, combining with David in 1951, 1952 and 1953. He bagged a total of 75 international titles in 14 countries 

However it was through circumstance and fate that made Eddy ditched his first love, football, for badminton.

A renowned half-back or midfielder at Penang Free School, Eddy was equally at home as a sprinter, a hockey player or a rugger player.

Yet the tactical, technical and mental aspects of badminton appealed to Eddy. And the type of game pint-sized Eddy chose was derived after much thought.

“I was fast and had strong legs. I had to play this type of game in order to give myself time to get back to central position. I could not play a fast, ping-pong type of game because all my opponents were taller and had better reach,” he added.

To improve his game, Eddy studied not only other racket sports but also athletics, golf, bowling and the martial arts.

From runners, Eddy learnt about the physical limitations of the human body. Gradually he changed his game – from the all-action jumping smash type of game to a more controlled pace, wearing his opponent out with precise strokes. Eddy gave a lot of thought to the game.

He wrote two books, including “The Phoenix Book of Badminton” which he co-authored with English journalist, Fred Brundle.

The 132-page hard cover book was published in 1956 and featured a history of the game, equipment, the origins of the All-England and the Thomas Cup and taught readers the basic skills of the game and simple tactics.

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