Tawau’s pioneer badminton players
Published on: Sunday, April 19, 2020
By: Nicholas Chung
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Sin Hwa School sports day in early 1950s.
IN Tawau during the 1940s to 1960s, very few people played badminton either as a game or as a form exercise. In fact, it was only in the mid- or late 1940s that the game was first introduced to Tawau.

The pioneers who were given credit to have done this was a group of “elite Tawau residents”. They first built two basic courts in school playing field of Sin Hwa Primary School, located near the town, the same site where the school still stands today. 

The pioneers were namely Anthony Chan Chun Sang, Tai Tiam Li, Pan Su Thin, Richard Tai Nyuk Foh and Koo Theng Chua who were the regular early players. 

They were later joined by Chin Tsun Bin and Soo Yin Chan. The latter also took part in the game, along with the aforesaid gentlemen. Soo was no doubt the trendsetter, not only because she was the first female to play badminton in Tawau, but also something of a celebrity in the way she dressed. 

She always appeared in loose blouse and a pair of short fluffy trousers. Her outfit was an eye-popping experience among the spectators in a town which was then anything but open-minded.

And so, the players gathered for the game every afternoon except during rainy days and on public holidays. The game did not prove to be attractive enough to entice other members of the townsfolk to join. 

Spectators were always some students, including this writer. The number of players remained static right until the time when I left school in the late 1950s and went back to watch the game only occasionally. 

But, thereafter, other schools began building their own badminton courts and coaching their interested students to play the game, mainly as form of exercise and not aiming to train competitively. 

So that fact remains that Tawau has never produced any player good enough to become national representative.

In Tawau, the debate remains as to who was the first man to have really introduced the game and organised the playing of the game. The consensus was that it was Anthony Chan Chu Sang. 

The late Chan originally hailed from Seremban, Malaya. He was first an English and Maths teacher at the Holy Trinity English School. He later became a planter and businessman. 

He was known to have donated a large tract of land to the school for its expansion. Messrs Tai Tiam Li and Pau Sau Thin were both landowners and Messrs Richard Tai and Koo Theng Chua were businessmen. Messr Chin Tsun Bin and Tan Soo Kee were both recruited by HSBC from Singapore to work in their Tawau branch.

These two gentlemen both returned to Singapore on retirement. And these people were reported to have passes on. The lone lady player, Soo Yi Chan, retired and moved on to Hong Kong where she is reported to still be alive and now in her 90s. 


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