Badminton legend Punch Gunalan passed away this morning at the Subang Medical Centre. Gunalan, 68, had liver cancer.
He was born in Sepang, Selangor, and his badminton career begain in the early 1960s when he became the men’s singles champion of the Negeri Sembilan Badminton Championship.
The lanky Gunalan and the short, stout Ng Boon Bee was an odd doubles combination. But in the the late 1960s and 1970s there was no stopping the country’s finest doubles pair. Gunalan’s baseline smashes was unreachable while Boon Bee pounched on any loose shuttle that came over the net.
Gunalan was not only known for his smashes but also for his well-coiffured hair. Even after playing in a long-drawn-out rubber set, he will leave the court with not a hair out of place.
Gunalan, an engineer, did not play much during his student days in England. And he came into the Malaysian Thomas Cup team at the late age of 26. He played 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.