Dato Choong Ewe Beng also known as Eddy was a Chinese Malaysian born on May 29, 1930. He was the third son of a wealthy family in Penang. His parents were Datuk Choong Eng Hai and Datin Ho Guat Im.
Eddy first went to primary and secondary school in Penang before moving to England at the turn of the 1950s to study law and medicine. His passion for the sport quickly eclipsed his studies and Eddy later said his studies were “long forgotten.”
Eddy spent nine years based in England which allowed him to travel easily across Europe. In those nine years, he won numerous titles and was instrumental in the decline of European superiority in badminton.
He won hundreds of regional titles and over 65 international titles in all three disciplines from 1949 to 1966. Eddy won many of these titles partnering his brother, David Choong, and his cousin, Amy Choong. Thirty of his international titles were gained in a short period of time from 1951 to 1953.
In the 1950s, Eddy dominated both Men’s Singles and Men’s Doubles with his brother. He was the proud holder of seven All England titles. Eddy reached the All England Men’s Singles 6 times from 1952 to 1957 and walked away with four titles (1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957). He was also the three-time consecutive winner of the Men’s Doubles with David Choong from 1951 to 1953.
Measuring at 1.62m, Eddy was smaller than most of his European competitors but he made up for the height difference with endless energy and amazing acrobatic jumps that triggered a running gag about Eddy hiding springs in his shoes. In fact, Eddy was considered to be one of the first athletes to do a jump smash. His trademark shot was known as the “Airborne Kill.”
Eddy was also known for his outrageous play. During 1951 All England Men’s Doubles final with David Choong against Ong Loh Him and Ismail Marjan, Eddy was remembered for having returned five smashes while sitting on the floor, much to the delight of the crowd. He was showman on the court and one of his most famous pictures immortalized Eddy hitting a trick shot between his legs.
At the height of his career, Eddy swept triple crowns on five occasions: 1952 French Open, 1953 Danish Open, 1953 Irish International, 1953 French Open, and 1957 Dutch Open. He was also a member of the Malayan team at the 1955 and 1958 Thomas Cup Finals. His team won the Thomas Cup in 1955 but lost to Indonesia in the Thomas Cup team final of the 1958.
His last strong year was 1957 in which he won no less than twelve titles, including his last All England title in Men’s Singles. In the 1960s, he was only able to win a handful of titles. Eddy finally ended his career in 1966 with three final titles, amongst which was one at the Asian Games in Mixed Doubles with Tan Gaik Bee.
Despite his impressive resume, badminton was much more than titles for him: “It is the love that counts, not the titles…No champion is worth his salt if after getting there no one wants to talk to him.” He was very philosophical about his career: “However great we might think we are, we should always remember to leave behind the night light … so that others may learn and benefit from them.” Eddy once said that his only regret was that he was unable to play the famous Dave Freeman.
Eddy made such an influence on the game that the IBF named an award after him: The Eddie Choong Player of the Year. This award was given to players who achieved exceptional results during a given year. Peter Gade was the first player to win this award in 1998. In 2008, the award was renamed the Eddie Choong Most Promising Player of the Year and given to the player who showed to be the most promising during a calendar year.
Partially due to bad experiences during his childhood, Eddy Choong was sensitive to racial issues and a strong promoter of race equality. Eddy Choong saw his performances in badminton as a way of showing that all races can be equally good at sport. “Badminton is an exquisite game. It belongs to everybody. It teaches mankind to fight hard but fight fairly.”
At the 1956 All England, he refused to attend the traditional celebration dinner because he felt the organizers treated him unfairly due to racial discrimination. On another occasion, Jørn Skaarup of Denmark gave away a match to Choong in which he felt the Malaysian was treated unfairly. Skaarup earned Choong’s respect and friendship with his fair play.
In 1959, Dato Eddy Choong married Maggie Thean Sun Lin. Together, they had four sons – Finn, Lionel, Antonio and Jorgen. His eldest son, Finn, and third son, Jorgen, was named after Eddy’s longtime badminton rivals and friends, Finn Kobero and Jorgen Hamergard Hansan respectively. His sons’ namesakes were on the Danish national team and competed against Eddy many a time during his years of competition.
Eddy choose to settle in his native Penang for his retirement. After badminton, he bred dogs and raced fast cars and go-karts. He was a good driver and made a name for himself in motor racing after winning many titles from 1967 to 1982. Eddy was also the chairman of the Hock Hin Brothers Group which was his family business in real estate and housing development. Additionally, Eddy was involved at a high level in kennel associations in Malaysia.
Thirty-three years after winning his first All England Men’s Doubles title with his brother, David, Choong, Eddy came out of retirement in 1984 to play Men’s Doubles with Nandu Natekar. Together, they won the All England Men’s Doubles Veterans title.
In 1995, Eddy became the vice-president of the Penang Badminton Association and chairman of the Badminton Association of Malaysia Technical Advisory Panel. He focused on developing badminton in his native Penang. Choong used his own money to convert a family factory into Penang’s first indoor badminton stadium. He later invested 1.5 million MYR to build the Penang International Badminton Hall. It opened in 1992.
In 1994, Eddy Choong won the Herbert Scheele award and was inducted into the IBF Hall of Fame in 1997.
Dato Eddy Choong passed in January 2013 at the age of 82 years old and left behind a badminton legacy for the future generations of players in Malaysia.
1955 – USA Badminton Ken Davidson Memorial Award for Sportsmanship
1976 – Penang State Distinguished Social Service Medal
1978 – Penang State Meritorious Service Medal
1985 – IBF Distinguished Service Award
1994 – IBF Herbert Scheele Award
1995 – Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame
1996 – Penang State Datoship
1997 – IBF Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
Eddy Choong Biography
Eddy Choong (Profile by Herbert Scheele)
International Badminton – the first 75 years
Thomas / Uber Cup 1992 Official Programme
World Badminton (Magazine)
-- By Yves Lacroix