Saturday 29 January 2011

Former badminton champion recalls proud moments


It was a remarkable year for former national schools badminton champion San Seong Kok when the country gained independence in 1957.

The 73-year-old recalled the unforgettable stint as a trainee joining the training camp with the more illustrious shuttlers preparing for the Thomas Cup campaign at Singapore in 1958.

Among the notable names in the squad then were Eddy Choong, Teh Kew San, Abdullah Piruz and Johnny Heah.

“As a youngster at the age of 20, I had the chance to play against the best in the country under the tutelage of well-respected mentor Wong Peng Soon,” said Seong Kok, adding that he was also up against Indonesia’s Ferry Sonneville, Thailand’s Charoen Wattanasin and India’s Nandu Natekar at international meets held here.

Creating an opening round upset against a highly rated Thomas Cupper Abdullah Piruz at the Merdeka Invitation Badminton Championship was also a proud moment for Seong Kok.

“It was a great feeling to upstage Abdullah Piruz. I took the first game 15-7 before he conceded a walkover for the surprise win. It was unfortunate that I could not continue the gallant run. The more experienced Teh Kew San prevented me from advancing in the tournament,” Seong Kok said.

The youngest child of seven siblings showed his promise at the age of 12, chalking up his first victory at the Pasar Road School tournament.

“I took up badminton playing the game outdoors when I was four or five. When I grew older, I saved up for almost half-a-year to purchase my first wooden racquet. We knew that our parents had limited resources in providing for us. We endured and overcame hardship when we wanted something special,” he said.

Although the former Victoria Institution student was eliminated in the semi-final of the All-Malayan Schools boys’ singles in 1954, a determined Seong Kok emerged as the champion a year later.

At the Negri Sembilan Closed in 1959, he featured in three finals but he only took the men’s singles title and was the runner-up in both the men’s doubles as well as the mixed doubles.

Looking back, Seong Kok could not hide his disappointment for not nailing the elusive Selangor Closed men’s singles title on numerous attempts between 1955 and 1962.

“I tried on several occasions. It was not the happy ending that I wanted. I always ended up as the second best,” he said.

The self-taught player said he did not pursue the game to a higher level because of other priorities.

“After completing my secondary school education, I started to work. It was also a crucial period when I had my own family,” said Seong Kok, who tied the knot with Agnes Bong in 1962.

However, he found time in between to offer his services to the Selangor Badminton Association (SBA) filling up various positions including secretary, chief coach and team manager for more than 30 years before he called it a day in 1992.

“I did not expect anything but it was very kind of my peers to present me with a gold coin in recognition of my contributions. I appreciate their gesture and will treasure the gift,” he said.

Seong Kok also served the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) as a council member, tournament secretary, rules committee and umpire board during his tenure as a sports administrator.

Seong admitted he had to sacrifice to devote his time and effort into badminton at the expense of his own family.

“I was so occupied looking after the needs of others. I regretted that I did not offer the same treatment to guide my eldest son (Sylvester, who was part of the St John’s Institution line-up winning the King’s Cup junior team event in 1980) when he was competing at junior level. As an official, I only felt let down when I was overlooked to improve on my umpiring qualifications at an international course conducted at Calgary, Canada in 1985,” he added.

Even after his retirement as the senior research assistant from the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) in 1988, Seong Kok continued to explore other business opportunities and is currently working for an insurance company.

“I want to be independent and not to burden my children in providing for me in my retirement age. I will continue to work as long as I am still fit to do it. I find it enjoyable to be surrounded by young people at work. I am learning new things from the youngsters. After a long hiatus from badminton between 1995 and 2004 to concentrate on my work commitments, I am glad that I have found the same excitement and fun playing recreational badminton in recent years. I am still an active member of the Lien Hwa Badminton Party,” he said.

Last year, he was the quarter-finalist in the above 70 years men’s singles contest of the World Chinese Badminton Invitation Championships at Pattaya in Thailand.

FACT FILE

Name: San Seong Kok

Date of Birth: March 21, 1937

Hometown: Kuala Lumpur

Occupation: Insurance agent

Hobbies: Music and travelling

Favourite Sports Personalities: Wong Peng Soon (Malaya-Singapore), Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)

Education:

- Pasar Road primary school
- Victoria Institution

Sports Achievements:

- All-Malayan Schools boys’ singles semi-finalist (1954)
- All-Malayan Schools boys’ singles champion (1955)
- Negri Sembilan Closed men’s singles champion, men’s doubles runner-up and mixed doubles runner-up (1959)
- Selangor Closed men’s singles runner-up

Other Contributions:

- SBA secretary, chief coach and team manager
- BAM administrator and international umpire



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