Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
JOHOR BAHRU -- Jalan Ngee Heng in central Johor Bahru used to have a badminton court impregnated with the stories of Malaysia as a once invincible badminton kingdom and its pursuit of Thomas Cup dreams.
The badminton court was located in front of the current Wisma Maria at a site that has now become the junction of Jalan Ngee Heng and Jalan Tun Abdul Razak. The court was a private property built by a sports enthusiast to train his children.
In the 1930s, the court gradually became a gathering place and competition venue for badminton enthusiasts, and was nicknamed the "factory of badminton players" by the media as many great national players had played here before.
Billy Ng, son of the original owner of the badminton court, told Sin Chew Daily that the badminton court built in an outlying area back in those years, had to give way to urban development during the 1970s.
Thomas Cup heroes
Among the multitude of energetic young players that had played there, a world-class player was born. -- Malaysia's 1967 Thomas Cup hero, Billy Ng.
Born in a badminton player family, 72-year-old Ng said his father played badminton in the 1930s and was a four-time champion for Johor state.
The senior Ng dedicated his entire lifetime to badminton training and had groomed many prominent badminton players.
Besides Billy, his two elder brothers and a younger sister have also made their names known in the badminton sport.
Billy Ng said his father, who was a government servant at the Land Office, would build a badminton court wherever they moved to, in order to facilitate his children's badminton practice
He added that the family badminton court was a simple structure where one side was bounded by a wall while the other three sides were bordered by bamboo fencing.
Ng started playing badminton since he was only seven years old. He was well aware that he had to practise very hard o clinch marvellous results. To prepare for the Thomas Cup, he trained for seven years in order to accomplish his goal.
Ng won the Malaysian School League Singles in 1959, defeating Indonesia's player, and another championship six years later in the Malaysian Men's Singles. He was also the Men's group first runner-up in the 1966 Asian Games and the group second runner-up in the 1967 SEA Games.
After Ng retired from the badminton game, he provided valuable advice to young and prospective badminton players.
JB also gave birth to another legendary player Wong Peng Soon, who led the Malayan contingent to win the first three Thomas Cups.
"Wong Peng Soon and my father belonged to the first batch of badminton players. In fact, he was a remote relative of our family," said Ng.
Local historian Wu Hua said Wong Peng Soon came from a prominent family whereby his grandfather was a cousin of Wong Ah Fook, one of the pioneers of Johor Bahru.
Wu Hua said Wong Peng Soon was once the world's top-ranking badminton player who led the Malayan contingent to victory in the first three Thomas Cup tournaments in 1949, 1952 and 1955.
Wong also won the All-England Men's Singles in 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1955.
Born in Johor Bahru, Wong later moved to Singapore in the 1940s and died at the age of 78 in 1996.