Sylvia Ng: I’ve never shaken so many hands in my life! We shook hands from the time we stepped off the plane, and all the way to the hotel.
We arrived in China in 1976, way before China opened its “bamboo curtain” to the world, for a friendly exhibition/exchange badminton match. The VIP treatment we received was truly unbelievable. From the lavish meals to playing in a huge stadium with so many people, was humbling.
The general public still wore black/white, and only 130,000 motorised vehicles were on the road in Beijing against the millions of bicycles. I was the only female Malaysian athlete privileged enough to witness this.
MINUS 36 DEGREES: We arrived in Moscow in the late 1970s during the “Cold War” where the thermometer read -36 degrees celsius. We wore layers upon layers of “Malaysian winter wear” that was no match for the Russian winter.
I played a match in my full tracksuit for the first and the last time because of the biting cold. Not wanting to be beaten by the cold, I stripped down to my shorts and T-shirt. But my battle against the elements lasted for all of three points, before I halted the match to put my tracksuit back on.
If you want to know how cold it was, during my mixed doubles match with Dominic Soong, his glasses actually cracked. He had to borrow a pair of spectacles, to keep the match going. To the entertainment and amusement of the crowd, Dominic in his borrowed glasses, made a few air shots. It was funny even to us. And as he didn’t have the luxury of having a second pair of spectacles, we tried very much to glue his broken glasses together.
As tourists, we went to view Lenin’s tomb in the Red Square, which meant we had to wait outdoors in the world’s longest queue and in sub-zero temperatures.We couldn’t feel our feet, and if we thought there would be reprieve from the cold once inside the warm mausoleum, we were downright wrong. It lasted for all of three minutes, before we were quickly ushered out into the cold.
The Russians noticing our plight, thankfully, midway through our visit, gave us winter wear.
VULTURE OR CHICKEN? During the 1975 Uber Cup in Lucknow, India, we missed our local fare so much that we offered to cook a meal for ourselves by requesting the chef, for chicken.
Vultures were a common sight back then in India, so when we were provided the “chicken” we joked that it could have actually been a “vulture”.
Ultimately, out of desperation Katherine Teh and I cooked up a storm with the “chicken”. No one complained. Everyone had a hearty meal, and we went on to beat India 6-1.