Ong Poh Lim

Ong Poh Lim
Personal information
Nickname(s) Gay Cavalier[1]
Country  Singapore
Born (1922-11-18)18 November 1922
Kuching, Kingdom of Sarawak (now Malaysia)
Died 17 April 2003(2003-04-17) (aged 80)
Handedness Right
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Ong.
Ong Poh Lim
Chinese 王保林

Ong Poh Lim (Chinese: 王保林; pinyin: Wáng Bǎo Lín; 18 November 1922 – 17 April 2003) was a Malayan/Singaporean badminton player who won numerous national and international titles from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. Known for his quickness and his aggressive, unorthodox playing style,[2] Ong won many singles and doubles titles, including the Singapore, Malaysia, All-England, French, Danish and Thomas Cup championships in the 1940s and 1950s. He also invented the backhand flick serve known as the “crocodile serve”, a tactic that had been routinely used in the modern game.[3][4] Ong was a keen rival to badminton legend Wong Peng Soon.[5]

Personal life

Ong was born on 18 November 1922, in Kuching, Sarawak. He was the son of Mr Ong and Mrs Ong Kheng Hong. Ong, then a student of St.Thomas's School, Kuching, took a serious interest in badminton only after the visit of two Singapore badminton champions Leow Kim Fatt and Yap Chin Tee to Kuching in 1937. In June 1947, he went to Singapore to work as well as looking for opportunity to improve his attacking game.[6] He was greatly assisted by Yap Chin Tee, a former high level player in Singapore. Ong, remained a bachelor for his whole life and he lived alone at Sennett Close.[7] Besides badminton, Ong was also interested in antiques. He was a keen philatelist and amassed an extensive collection of rare and unusual stamps from all over the world, including those from Indonesia, Sarawak, Brunei and the Straits Settlements.[7][8] Former president of Singapore, the late Dr. Wee Kim Wee, was an old friend of his.[9]

Badminton career

Ong excelled in badminton during his school days and held the Sarawak singles and doubles titles[10] from 1938 to 1941. He moved to Singapore after World War II, where he played for Marigold Badminton Party,[11] a well-established rival to Mayflower Badminton Party,[12] which produced Wong Peng Soon and a number of other prominent badminton players of that era.[8]

Ong won the Singapore Open men's singles title four times from 1952 to 1955 and the men's doubles title seven times from 1950 to 1956 with Ismail Marjan. He also created history by capturing the Singapore Open singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles over three consecutive years, from 1953 to 1955.[13]

Ong held the Malaysia Open men's singles title two times in 1954 and 1956, the men's doubles title four times in 1950, 1953, 1956 with Ismail Marjan and in 1955 with Ooi Teik Hock.[14]

Ong also won many international titles in his tour of Europe and US. He won both the Irish Open men's singles and men's doubles titles in 1949 with Lim Kee Fong.[14] He won the Denmark Open men's doubles titles in 1950 and 1951 with Ismail Marjan.[15] He also won the French Open men's singles and men's doubles titles in 1951, again with Ismail Marjan. Ong shared the All-England men's doubles title in 1954 with Ooi Teik Hock, having previously reached the finals of both singles and doubles at the All-Englands in 1951.[16] As a pair, they also won the US Open men's doubles title in the same calendar year (1954). Ong played on three consecutive world champion Malayan Thomas Cup teams (1949, 1952, 1955) and won all of his individual matches in these contests.[17] In the latter part of his career he represented Singapore in international competition.

After his retirement, Ong took on coaching roles in Malaysia (1976), Iran (1978)[18] and the Philippines (1980).[19] Ong is credited for having trained Lee Kin Tat,[20] who reached the semi-finals of the All-England in 1964 and 1966; and the two-time All-England champion of 1965 and 1966, Tan Yee Khan.[8][21]

Ong's famous crocodile serve apparently came about by accident. He had a slight limp and he compensated this by "wiggling his behind, a little like Marilyn Monroe" (in his own words) before executing a quick back-hand flick serve to fool his opponents. And he did all these naturally. Because he was originally from Sarawak where the rivers were infested with crocodiles, a British journalist coined his peculiar serve after them.[4][22]


Ong was inducted into the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) Sports Museum Hall of Fame in 1986.[23] In 1996, he received a Meritorious Service Award from the International Badminton Federation (IBF) for his significant contribution to the growth of world badminton.[24] Ong was also inducted into the World Badminton Hall of Fame in 1998[25] as well as the Olympic Council of Malaysia’s Hall of Fame in 2004.[26]


Year Tournament Discipline Result
1949 Irish Open Men's singles Winner
1949 Irish Open (2) Men's doubles Winner
1949 Thomas Cup[27] Team Winner
1950 Denmark Open[15] Men's doubles Winner
1950 Malaysia Open Men's doubles Winner
1951 All England[16] Men's singles Runner-up
1951 All England[16] Men's doubles Runner-up
1951 French Open[28] Men's singles Winner
1951 French Open (2)[28] Men's doubles Winner
1951 Denmark Open (2)[15] Men's doubles Winner
1952 Thomas Cup (2)[27] Team Winner
1953 Malaysia Open (2) Men's doubles Winner
1954 All England[16][29] Men's doubles Winner
1954 Malaysia Open (3) Men's singles Winner
1954 US Open Men's doubles Winner
1955 Malaysia Open (4) Men's doubles Winner
1955 Thomas Cup (3)[27] Team Winner
1956 Malaysia Open (5) Men's singles Winner
1956 Malaysia Open (6) Men's doubles Winner


On 16 April 2003, SSC officials discovered Ong at his home, where he had suffered a bad fall and had been unattended for several days. He was taken to Changi General Hospital, where he died on 17 April. He was 80 years old.[30] His funeral was attended by officials from the SSC and the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA). He was buried at Choa Chu Kang Christian Cemetery.[8][31]


  1. "Poh Lim Gets An Offer". The Straits Times. 17 November 1962.
  2. "Poh Lim is under-rated says Mr Lim". The Straits Times. 26 November 1952.
  3. "Legend's Tricky Serve". The Straits Times. 23 August 2000.
  4. 1 2 "The 'crocodile' survives, in fact thrives". Khaleej Times. 21 December 2014.
  5. "Peng Soon vs Poh Lim Return on Sunday". The Singapore Free Press. 27 January 1955.
  6. Ho Ah Chon, Badminton 1952-1964 (The Author, Kuching, Sarawak, 1992) 1 - 5.
  7. 1 2 "For The Love Of...". The Straits Times. 16 November 1981.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Ong Poh Lim". Singapore Infopedia. 2010.
  9. "Badminton champ in his youth". The Straits Times. 28 August 1985.
  10. "Badminton Tourney Draw To-Day". The Straits Times. 10 March 1940.
  11. "Marigold Badminton Party". The Straits Times. 17 May 1940.
  12. "Mayflower Badminton Party". The Straits Times. 12 January 1936.
  13. "Ong Poh Lim makes badminton history". The Straits Times. 17 January 1955.
  14. 1 2 Leo Suryadinata ed., Southeast Asian Personalities Of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary (ISEAS, Singapore, 2012) 841 - 843.
  15. 1 2 3 "Denmark Open past winners". 22 August 2015.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Herbert Scheele ed., The International Badminton Federation Handbook for 1967 (Canterbury, Kent, England: J. A. Jennings Ltd., 1967) 166 - 168.
  17. Herbert Scheele ed., The International Badminton Federation Handbook for 1967 (Canterbury, Kent, England: J. A. Jennings Ltd., 1967) 66 - 73.
  18. "Poh Lim gets coaching offer". The Straits Times. 9 February 1978.
  19. "Ong to coach Filipino team for one month". The Straits Times. 26 August 1980.
  20. "Glory days of local shuttlers". The Straits Times. 16 August 2015.
  21. "Yee Khan to move to S'pore". The Straits Times. 25 November 1960.
  22. Peter H. L. Lim ed., Chronicle of Singapore, 1959-2009: Fifty Years of Headline News (Editions Didier Millet, 2009) 309.
  23. "SSC Sports Museum Hall of Fame". Singapore Sports Council. 1986. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007.
  24. "BWF Meritorious Service Award Recipients". Badminton World Federation. 1996.
  25. "BWF Hall of Fame Members". Badminton World Federation. 1998.
  26. "OCM Hall of Fame". Olympic Council of Malaysia. 2004.
  27. 1 2 3 "Thomas Cup past winners". 15 October 2014.
  28. 1 2 "Fédération Française de Badminton". 2015.
  29. "All England Badminton Championships Winners" (PDF). June 2012.
  30. "Death of a legend". 18 April 2003. 18 April 2003.
  31. "Ong's Funeral Tomorrow". The Straits Times. 23 April 2003.
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