The First Thomas Cup Final

Written by Geoff Hinder

The First Thomas Cup Final

In 1939 Sir George Thomas who was the president of the International Badminton Federation (now Badminton World Federation – BWF) presented the Thomas Cup officially known as The International Badminton Championship Challenge Cup to the International Badminton Federation. The first tournament was originally planned for 1941-1942 but it was delayed by World War II. Sir George’s dream was finally realised in 1948-1949 when 10 national teams participated in the first Thomas Cup competition.

For more information on Sir George Thomas – Click Here.

Click on images to enlarge.

The draw for the inaugural Thomas Cup competition made by Sir George Thomas on June 30th 1948 from the trophy he had presented to the International Badminton Federation. The draw was made at the Charing Cross Hotel, London with representatives of the many competing nations.


There were three qualifying zones Pan- America, Europe and the Pacific, though Malaya (now Malaysia) was the only Pacific zone participant. India elected to play in the Pan American zone, this meant 24 hours of flying from Bombay to London then a four-day boat journey from Southampton to Halifax, Canada enroute to Toronto. They were beaten 7-2 by Canada and then Canada lost 8-1 to the USA. The European zone had 6 teams participating with Scotland, England, Denmark, Ireland, France and Sweden. Denmark and England made it to the semi-finals with Denmark beating England 9-0 in Copenhagen. In the other semi-final Malaya defeated the USA 6-3 in a highly competitive match played at the Kelvin Hall, Glasgow.

The Final.
The Malayan and Danish teams being introduced to Sir George Thomas at the Queens Hall, Preston, England on the 25th February 1949.

The first Thomas Cup final was played at the Queens Hall, Preston, England on 25th and 26th February 1949. In the final owing to injury, Malaya would be without their star player Wong Peng Soon. At the end of the first day’s play, Malaya found themselves in the lead by 4-0. At the start of the second day’s play, Denmark was encouraged by Mogens Felsby’s decisive win over Law Teik Hock 15-11, 15-1. Unfortunately, Denmark did not win another game allowing Malaya to become the first Thomas Cup champions.

The Danish Team at Preston – L. to R. – Standing: – Knud Christensen, Jorn Skaarup, Preben Dabelsteen, Mogens Felsby.  Seated: – Poul Holm, Richard Heilb (Captain) and Ib Olesen.
Sir George Thomas, President of the International Badminton Federation and donor of the Cup, hands the Thomas Cup to Mr. Lim Chuan Geok, captain of the Malayan winning team in 1949.

Each member of the Malayan team received from Sir George Thomas a silver-gilt medal as a personal gift from himself to commemorate their success. Likewise, silver medals were also presented by Sir George to members of the Danish team and to Richard Heilbo, their captain. Also, all the members of the Committee of Management were presented medals by Sir George.

The triumphant Malayan team gathers around the Thomas cup in 1949.
Left to right :- Ong Poh Lim, Law Teik Hock, Lim Chuan Geok (captain), Ooi Teik Hock, Yeo Teck Chye, Chan Leong and Teoh Seng Khoon.

Malaya beat Denmark 8-1 to become the first nation to win the Thomas Cup. Malaya went on to win the following two Thomas Cups in 1952 and 1955.


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