Datuk Punch Gunalan Honoured16 August, 2016
Is that another Punch Gunalan? Nope. It is the same old Punch Gunalan, but he has deservedly moved up the pecking order for his remarkable services to sports, especially Badminton, in Malaysia.
And he can be assured of congratulations from the badminton world for the job he has done as a player, coach, manager and director at local and international levels.
Gunalan made it the hard way - yet with great aplomb, strengthened with humility and the delicacy of diplomacy learnt through the Malaysian and English education systems. Not many people know that he holds a degree in mechanical engineering.
His father died when he was 13 years of age and under the care of his mother completed his Malaysian schooling in Negri Sembilan where badminton was his principal sport. He played first at four years of age.
At 18 years of age he was called for the Thomas Cup trials.
His great playing period was from 1969-74 but it was in fact longer than that.
In 1971, he and Ng Boon Bee won the All England men's doubles and in 1974 he was runnerup to Rudy Hartono in the All England men's singles. IBF President Arthur Jones was the umpire. It was of this match that journalist Pat Davis said, "The 'Black Panther' had him by the throat 8-15, 1-7 but he still lost 8-15, 15-9, 15-10."
Gunalan's remarkable speed earned him the title of the 'Black Panther', but he can now point to a well rounded midsection of the body when speaking of those days of glory in the 1970's.
He won the Commonwealth Games men’s doubles in 1970 with Ng Boon Bee and the Commonwealth Games singles in 1974, and established himself as one of the finest doubles tacticians in the world.
Gunalan says that China's Tang Tsien Fu probably would have been one of the finest players in the world had that his country at the time been part of the International Badminton Federation (I.B.F.).
Yet he gives the accolade of "the most complete player ever" to Korea's Joo Bong Park, because he has achieved greatness in all facets of the game, with world titles in men's and mixed doubles. He could also dominate at singles. He had remarkable speed and reflexes.
Gunalan also commended Yang Yang for his two world championships. Finally his comments on players ended with "Christian was really great for his time."
The greatest thrill for Gunalan was the return of the Thomas Cup to Malaysia after 25 years, yet the past five years have been nothing short of exhilarating for him.
There has been the construction of the badminton hall on ]alan Cheras; air conditioning of the hall; the establishment of the Badminton Academy and a Thomas Cup victory after 25 years in the wilderness.
Gunalan was at the fore front of all of that and now he is Datuk and we offer best wishes to Darina Vijaya Kumari, his lovely wife.
The post script to all of this exhilaration in his badminton life is the first ever Olympic bronze medals for the nation through the doubles team of Razif and Jalani Sidek, and the awarding of the Commonwealth Games to Kuala Lumpur for 1998.
His immediate aim is the construction of four training courts at ]alan Cheras.
Besides all of this work for Malaysia, there is the job of Secretary General of the Asian Badminton Confederation. On the IBF he is deputy Chairman of the Open Badminton Committee and an important member of the ICT Committee.
Congratulations Datuk and Darina.
-- World Badminton Sep/Oct 1992