Celebrating Women: Our very own Sylvia Ng

This March, BFM 89.9 radio station had arranged to meet with Aunty Sylvia for an interview to produce a video on her as part of the station’s celebration of International Women’s Day.

Ng Family: Sylvia is youngest daughter [Front Row Left]
My aunt mentioned it in passing but I had forgotten until she had completed the interview with BFM.

I remember she sounded happy in her phone call, saying that the interview was done and continued with telling me about a caterer in Kuala Lumpur, aptly named Johor Cravings, who served Johor specialties.

She described the Laksa Johor and Kacang Pool ordered in for dinner the previous night (as it was only available through deliveries!) and that it tasted quite authentic.

This sort of conversations are quite typical with my aunts who now live in KL and who often longed for an authentic taste of Johor food.

Sylvia still plays badminton but only for fun
Whenever they discover something interesting and authentic, it was like a prized treasure in their neighbourhood because it means that they need not come all the way back to Johor for a taste of their favourite food!

Then early this week, I received a message from Bahir Yeusuff, a producer at BFM, seeking permission to use photos that he saw in my post titled, Badminton Glory Days.

He explained that BFM had interviewed Aunty Sylvia several weeks ago and as she had spoken about her father and his role in her sports career, they were considering the use of my photos in their video.

I know this short video was scheduled to be released by the end of the week, so I had a quick chat with aunty to let her know that BFM had approached me for the use of photos.

She was surprised that they needed more photos because (she told me) when they met for the interview, aunty showed them her impressive collection of old newspaper clips and old photos, which she thought should be sufficient for their video content.

Cover story in All Sports magazine 1978
It was indeed sufficient because Bahir followed up with another message to inform that they will not be needing my photos after all. He thanked me and said when the video was ready, he would share the link with me.

I’m familiar with my aunt’s career in sports as my siblings and I lived in grandfather’s house at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng (Where champions were born) along with our uncles and aunts, during our school-going years.

While badminton fans may know Sylvia Ng as a sports star, we know her as aunty, the youngest sister of my mum, her eldest sister.

Her sports achievements since 1969 when she won Gold in the SEAP Games till her retirement from international competition at the pinnacle of her career in 1980, are certainly too many to be mentioned in a short video.

I cannot forget sitting down with our cousins to design posters using crayons and coloured pencils to wave and welcome aunty back to Johor Baru on her return from the 1978 Commonwealth Games held in Edmonton, Canada.

A Malaysia Book of Record recognition
[Last year, while I was helping aunty to pack up her house, I came across a host of sports memorabilia including faded photos of us with those posters at Senai Airport, used to welcome aunty home!]

Cousin Bernice, who viewed the BFM video from London this morning, was thrilled to see herself (then a cute kid!) admiring Aunty Sylvia’s Gold and Bronze medals in a photo in an old newspaper clip, that appeared in the video!

“So proud of her! Even I was featured,” said Bernice, whose family was then living in Rawang and they were at the airport in Kuala Lumpur – it was still Subang Airport then – to welcome aunty back from the Canada – KL sector.

This proud and exciting achievement is stuck in my memory because she not only participated in the Singles and Doubles games, aunty was also the nation’s flag-bearer for the 1978 games’ Opening Ceremony.

In the Doubles team event, they clinched the Bronze medal. For the individual event the following day, she met compatriot, Katherine Teh, for the Singles match and won the Gold while Katherine had to settle for the Silver medal.

A framed newspaper clip with photo of
cousin Bernice [Right] admiring aunty's medals
That day, 12 August 1978, Aunty Sylvia made history by becoming the first Asian woman to win the Commonwealth Games, Singles Gold. 

She was also the first Malaysian female athlete to clinch a Gold in the history of the Games!
(A Malaysia Book of Records recognition!)

In her illustrious career, aunty was National badminton champion six times (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977). This record itself, I’m sure, is worth making a movie over…

For her outstanding achievements in badminton, aunty was recognised as Sportswoman of the Year twice – once in 1975 and later in 1978. 

For her excellent service to Johor, aunty received a State Award, the Ibrahim Sultan Medal Second Class or PIS II, in 1978.

In 1982 she was also decorated with a Federal Award, the Ahli Mangku Negara or AMN.

Aunty Sylvia was inducted into the Olympics Council of Malaysia (OCM) Hall of Fame in 2004.

Lighting the fire to kick off the XV SEA Games, KL 1989
While aunty retired from competitive badminton, she continued to represent the nation in the torch runs at the start of the XV SEA Games in KL (1989), the IV SUKMA Games in Johor Baru (1992) and the XVI Commonwealth Games in KL (1998).

In 1998, aunty met the Queen – Yes, Queen Elizabeth II – at Buckingham Palace, London, when she represented the nation at the launch of the Queen’s Relay on 9 March.

Thanks BFM 89.9 radio station, for this short video onSylvia Ng.

Thanks to you, her fans are able to enjoy a glimpse of her again, long after her retirement from the sports arena.

Happy International Women’s Day 2018, dear Aunty Sylvia!