Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kampong Badminton

This week, everybody seems to be blogging about the General Election and James Gomez. I too should join in … sort of.

I saw, in the front page of yesterday’s newspapers, JG criticizing his opponents for engaging in ‘politics of distraction’. When I got to the back section, I saw some news about the ongoing Thomas Cup and Uber Cup badminton championships. I realized that all the GE news has distracted many sport lovers from the popular sport of badminton, and so I think I should do my part to refocus their attention on badminton by blogging about how we were introduced to the sport of badminton during our kampong days in
Lorong Kinchir .

Let me begin by asking you a simple question. What is the best time of the day to play badminton?

You youngsters probably don’t know the answer right? That’s because you are so used to playing in a proper indoor badminton hall. But when we were kids living in the kampong, we could only play in the open air, and the best time to do so was early in the morning when the air was still. Otherwise the wind would do havoc to our game. (See photo below - taken in Malaysia)

My 7 Uncle, the badminton champ

We were introduced to the game of badminton by our 7th uncle, Ng Yook Soon. He was in fact one of the top badminton players in Malaya in the 50’s and a contemporary of people like All England champion, Eddy Choong. We used to play in front of his house which he converted into a crude badminton court. As it was not possible to paint lines on the ground, what we did was to dig narrow grooves and plant strips of wood to form the lines of the badminton court. Then we painted the surface of the wood white, and voila - you have your badminton court.

My younger brother, James, smashing in style. Hey I recognize that tree - its a soursop tree.

Wave - that's me. Don't you envy our classic Nike's. In the background is our 7 Uncle' house.

As for rackets, the 2 famous brands during that time were Dunlop and Flight Commander. But we couldn’t afford those until much later. I sure was glad to see 2 similar rackets at the Grassroots Heritage Centre recently. Now you know what I was talking about when I blogged about my precious Dunlop Maxply earlier.

I am shy to say that, in spite of my uncle’s coaching, I never got to be very good in badminton. My younger brother, James was much better. In fact, when I got to secondary school in ACS, I did not even qualify to represent my house. However, when I entered NJC in 1969, I managed to get into the school team. How? Via the back door lor! Here’s how I did it.

At first, when I went for the selection trials, I actually did not qualify. But my good friend, Chou Feng, who was also from ACS got selected for the school team. When he saw my disappointment, he ‘invited’ me to join their training sessions. At first I was too embarrassed to do so, but after much prompting, (Don’t care lah! Just join in. Nobody will dare to throw you out one) I did one of the bravest things in my life. I ‘kar-kar’ gate-crashed, joined in their training. When our coach, Mr Seah Lye Huat first saw me, he gave me a puzzled look. But fortunately, he did not pursue the matter, and I remained on the team as a doubles reserve. My partner was a crew-cut, Chinese stream guy by the name of Heng Chye Kiow. Today, I understand he is a VIP in transport giant, Comfort Delgro. (not the sort of ‘VIP’ that Dr Tan Wee Kiat wrote about in NJC69Net, Issue no. 3 - Very Impotent Person. Haha). On occasions when we were up against the weaker opponents, Chye Kiow and I were given the opportunity to ‘kick some butts’.

I remember the tough training under Mr Seah who was a former Thomas Cup player. I think he was from Bartley Secondary School. Besides lots of skipping and running, we, the doubles players had to perfect our low service. To achieve that, he made us serve repeatedly to this guy in our team called Ng Chor Yau. In case you do not know, he was in the Singapore national badminton team at that time (maybe national champion even). Every time, we served a little too high – WHAM! You can get the picture I think. I don’t remember much else about those days, except one time when Mr Seah brought us to the famous Kuok Road hawker centre for dinner after evening training.

Another memorable occasion was when we participated in the parade at the official opening of the college. I remember proudly putting on our gaudy red blazer and being inspected by PM Lee Kuan Yew himself.

I had wanted to blog about this for a long time, but was too lazy to sit down, dig out the old photos, scan them and write down the details. What finally got me to overcome the inertia was not the general elections, but a (virtual) meeting with a former NJC teacher, Dr Tan Wee Kiat who recently joined our Friends of group.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Dr Tan.


Anonymous said...

Hi Uncle,
Enjoy reading your blogs very much!
I also came across some election issues which I would like to share with you. Let us know your views.
Thank you so much.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Lam,
I used to play 'outdoor badminton' too! Unlike you, however, I just stopped there, i.e., no school or house team for me. I'm just lousy at it!

iml said...

Well I am glad you did. A reprieve from all the GE. Your article brought back old memories for me. I am the biggest fan of Rudy hartono.

Lam Chun See said...

Oh yes I remember Rudy Hartono. Before, he was called Rudy Neo right?

But I always prefer watching doubles. More exciting and the action faster. My favourites were the Msian pair - offhand cannot recall their names. A bit like Wang Sa & Yeh Fong; 1 tall 1 short. They were the best.

Anonymous said...

I played baminton in my primary school days and was a very inconsistent player. But as a spectator, I was really an enthusiastic one. The Malaysian double players mentioned by Chun See, were Ng Boon Bee (short one) and Tan Yee Khan (the taller fellow). YK would kill off all shots above the net and BB surprisingly able to leap like a
Salmon and smashed with devastating effect from the base line. The way they demolished top world class players was unbelievable. Rudy Hartono was king at his time. I was lining up at the Singapore Badminton stadium to see him play, and was a bit late. The match between Hartono and the Thai champion had started and before I could enter the stadium, Hartono was leading 7-0, with the Thai at the receiving end. Just to give a glimpse of Hartono prowess -the Thai gave him a thunderous smash near to his body, somehow he managed to return the short, which just skirmed above the net, and dropped in. The Thai, dashed desperately for the shot, falling flat onto the ground, still unable to retrieve it. This was how good Hartono was.

Lam Chun See said...

At that time, there was a China player nicknamed The Thing (Tang something). He was reputed to be just as good as Rudy Hartono but becos China did not participate in intl events for political reasons, the world missed the chance to see the 2 of them clash.

Was it Tan Yee Khan who was later replaced by Punch Gunalan? The pair still strong but not as good as before.

Victor said...

Sorry that I can't comment much about this post of yours because I neither play badminton nor watch the game. In fact, I won't even follow the World Cup when it comes around later this year. Quite unusual of a man hor? You can say that I have no ball sense (pardon the language).

Anonymous said...

Ng Boon Bee was surprisingly a state (Perak ?) soccer player. He turned to badminton because of better opportunity to be on the world stage. As for the Chinese player Tang, he was unable to pit himself against Hartono because China was then not a member of the IBF. There were talks that Indonesia was afraid of letting Hartono played against Tang for fear of losing, as reports revealed that Tang was another giant-killer. Sport reporters depicted him as almost unbeatable in his peak form, smashing shots from the base-line as though as he was doing it from mid court. The 'clash of titans' regrettably never took place.

valerie said...

yo uncle!
U were from NJC badminton team? I'm now in the team! haha. Was it tough in NJC back then? Now it is... haiz... haha. Glad to have chanced upon ur blog... and ur entry is damn cool! way to go!