SI Vault
 
TAN JOE HOK TAKES DETROIT
Nick Thimmesch
April 13, 1959
Triumphing over aches and ills, an Indonesian youngster becomes U.S. badminton champion
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 13, 1959

Tan Joe Hok Takes Detroit

Triumphing over aches and ills, an Indonesian youngster becomes U.S. badminton champion

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

To most Americans badminton is a pleasant summertime activity suitable for the backyard or summer camp and certainly not to be conducted so vigorously as to exclude time-outs for a good swallow of highball or a munch off a barbecued hamburger. Good Doctor Gallup, not long back, came up with a finding which held that some 7 million Americans take an occasional turn at the sport, and the American Badminton Association estimates that a half million new sets are sold every year. All this, though, amounts to a healthy yet casual form of recreation in the U.S. and only the suggestion of competitive attitude.

In Grosse Pointe, Mich. last week many a backyard highball-and-ham-burger badminton player saw the other (competitive) side of the game as the sixth annual Open Amateur Championships of the American Badminton Association were held in the local high school's handsome gymnasium. The most accomplished and successful of the 170 entrants were five brown young men from the Far East who know very little of highballs and hamburgers. Their acquaintanceship with the sport is marked by daily miles of roadwork, hours of batting a shuttlecock against a stone wall in the interest of improving backhand, and the ritual of setting-up exercises and skipping rope. Their reward for such dedication is the realization that competitive badminton now belongs to the Far East where it started in the first place.

The Asian group, now on a world circuit tour, arrived in Detroit last Tuesday after triumphs in Britain and Canada, and they were immediately dubbed the "Achin' Asians." Tan Joe Hok, the 21-year-old whiz from Bandung, Indonesia, complained of a Scottish cold, a stuffed-up nose and postnasal drip. Thailand's Chareon Wattanasin cupped his hand over his jaw and moaned toothache. Lim Say Hup and Teh Kew San, the doubles experts from Malaya, showed themselves limp with fatigue, and the visitors expressed the common opinion that they were in no shape to begin play. The following day there was more talk of calamity.

"What's wrong with Tan Joe Hok?" an anxious host-official asked.

"He's got intestinal flu or something," a Grosse Pointer offered.

"You mean intentional flu," said a third man who had heard of Hok's inclination to hypochondria.

There came a report that Hok, medicinally treated for his stuffy head, had collapsed in the high school cafeteria, had rolled around the floor and was pleading in Indonesian for an early, happy death.

"The poor thing," a kindly cafeteria lady recalled. "I held the boy in my arms. My, he seemed sick!"

"Everything wrong with me," Hok explained later. "Eyes, nose, throat. It was owl-ful."

"I arrive in England, climate changed—damp and cold. Then Canada—dry and cold. Then Detroit—I don't know. In Indonesia I eat soft food, noodles and rice. In England I eat beef and lamb—don't like. In Canada I find one good Chinese restaurant. Now I hope I get good rice here. When I go to school in Texas [Baylor] I will get good rice. Oh, I am feeling owl-ful."

Continue Story
1 2