PETALING JAYA: Badminton legend Datuk Punch Gunalan passed away this morning at the Subang Medical Centre, succumbing to liver cancer. He was 68.
Gunalan was born in Sepang, Selangor, and his badminton career began in the 1960s when he became the men’s singles champion of the Negeri Sembilan Badminton Championship.
The lanky Gunalan, an engineer, did not play much during his student days in England. He came into the Malaysian Thomas Cup team at the late age of 26, playing in the 1970 Thomas Cup series in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia lost the title to Indonesia 2-7 with Gunalan and Boon Bee in the doubles gaining one of the two points.
In 1971, Gunalan and Boon Bee were the leading men’s doubles team in the world, winning the prestigious All-England title, as well as the Danish, Canadian, and US Open titles.
Gunalan was capable of playing the game at the highest level; reaching the All-England singles final in 1974, losing in three close games to the iconic Rudy Hartono. He won singles at the Asian Games in 1970 and at the Commonwealth Games in 1974.
In 2004, the former shuttler was honoured with a place in the Olympic Council of Malaysia’s Hall of Fame.
During his playing days, Gunalan had been named the National Sportsman of the Year in 1969, and again in 1974.
Since retiring as a player after 1974, Gunalan has served in various stints as coach of the Malaysian team, an official in the Malaysian Badminton Association, and as an official in the International Badminton Federation (now Badminton World Federation).
The cortege leaves for MBPJ crematorium at 3pm after the funeral service in Petaling Jaya.