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Thursday August 16, 2012
PETALING JAYA: Although the late Datuk Punch Gunalan was weak and feeble, it did not stop him from watching the epic Olympic Games men's singles final between Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan of China on Aug 5 from his hospital bed.
In fact, his son Dr Roshan said there was a glow on Punch's face when he was rooting for Lee to win the gold.
Yesterday, 10 days after he witnessed the heart-warming performance of Lee in his close defeat to Lin Dan, Punch passed away after losing his battle against liver cancer.
“He was weak but he insisted on watching the match. He could hardly utter words but he said that Chong Wei would win it. Despite his condition, he managed to witness Chong Wei's heroics. That's my father. Badminton always brought him joy,” said Dr Roshan.
Punch was diagnosed with liver cancer in March.
Dr Roshan, 36, the only son of Punch and Vijeya Kumari, said he would cherish the memories of his father.
“He was a great man. He was even a greater father to me,” said Dr Roshan, an orthopedic surgeon at the University Malaya Medical Centre.
“He is the only person who did not say No' to anything that I asked. I did not take up badminton like him but he never forced it on me. He gave me the freedom to choose,” he said.
Dr Roshan said when he was born, his father had already retired from the game.
“But I watched DVDs of him playing. I know that he lived his dream. He was so popular that even I was called and recognised as Punch Gunalan's son wherever I went.”
Dr Roshan said he had been intrigued as to how his father decided to keep his name Punch Gunalan although it was not his given name.
“When he beat (Malaysian shuttler) Tan Aik Huang in his first international tournament, the paper's headline the next day read Aik Huang Punched Out' and since then, the name Punch stuck,” he said.
His father, whose real name was Gunalan Panchacharan, liked the name so much that he made a statutory declaration and decided to keep the name Punch Gunalan.
“He was really special to all of us. We will miss him terribly. My mother has taken all this very badly because they were very close and inseparable,” said Dr Roshan, who has a four-year-old son Neeraj Madhav.
Vijeya, who was married to Punch for 41 years, expressed her heartfelt gratitude to everyone for their support.
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