16th August, 2012
PUNCH GUNALAN … was one of the most talented singles and doubles badminton players ever produced by the country, contributing medals to the nation in many international competitions.
KUALA LUMPUR: Former national badminton champion Datuk Punch Gunalan died of cancer at the Sime Darby Medical Centre in Subang Jaya yesterday.
Gunalan, 68, breathed his last at around 6.20am at the medical centre formerly known as the Subang Jaya Medical Centre after falling seriously ill two weeks ago.
He leaves behind his wife, P. Vijeyakumari, 64, and son Roshan Gunalan, 36, who is an orthopaedic specialist.
Gunalan was one of the most talented singles and doubles badminton player ever produced by the country, contributing medals to the nation in many international competitions.
His illustrious career in badminton began in the early 60’s when he won the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles events in the Negeri Sembilan Badminton Championship (1961-1963).
His biggest contribution was winning the All-England championship in the men’s doubles event with his partner Ng Boon Bee in 1971.
A year earlier, in 1970, Gunalan and his doubles partner Ng, made history when they won the first Commonwealth gold medal for Malaysia in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The team also picked up the gold medal in the Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand, in the same year, while Gunalan also won the gold medal in the men’s singles event in the games.
In 1974, he succeeded once again in securing a gold medal for the country in the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, this time in the men’s singles event, and earned the bronze medal in the doubles event.
He also brought home gold medals in the men’s singles and doubles event in the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games held in Singapore in 1973.
Gunalan also represented the nation in the Thomas Cup in 1970 and 1973.
He was also crowned as the National Sportsman of the Year in 1969 and 1974.
After ending his playing career, Gunalan remained active as a national coach and successfully steered the national squad to glory in the Thomas Cup held in Kuala Lumpur in 1992.
Among his notable proteges are Rashid Sidek, Razif Sidek and Foo Kok Keong.
Gunalan was also an active member of the Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC) serving as its Honorary General Secretary, and was the President of the International Badminton Federation (IBF) from 2004 to 2008.
He also held the post of Honorary Secretary in the Badminton Association of Malaysia from 1985 to 1997. His final post in the Malaysian badminton body was as its vice-president in 2005.
Gunalan was also given the honour of representing Malaysia to receive the Commonwealth Games baton from Queen Elizabeth at the Buckingham Palace in London in 1998.
His remains will be brought to his home at No.9, Jalan 12/14B Petaling Jaya for visitors to pay their last respects from 1pm today before being cremated at the Kampung Tunku Crematorium, in Petaling Jaya today at 4pm.
National Sports Council Director-General Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong said Gunalan contributed immensely to the country not only as an athlete but also as a coach and serving as an official in the top bodies of the sport such as the IBF.
He said Malaysia lost a great talent with the demise of Gunalan as he had brought glory to the country in the international arena.
“I personally knew him as a person who taught and helped a lot in the establishment of the nation’s badminton arena,” he said.
Media/Public Relations executive of the Malaysian Athletes Welfare Foundation (Yakeb) Muhammad Aiman Aminul Abdullah said the foundation would give a death contribution of RM11,000 to Gunalan’s family.
“Punch Gunalan was among the first members of Yakeb since 2008 and he contributed a lot of time and effort in the activities organised by Yakeb,” he said.