Friday August 17, 2012
Andrew urges Chong Wei to emulate Punch’s 1970 feat
By RAJES PAUL
PETALING JAYA: The late Datuk Punch Gunalan was the last Malaysian to win a singles gold medal at the Asian Games in 1970. World No. 2 Lee Chong Wei now faces a challenge to emulate that feat.
Yesterday, the owner of professional club KLRC, Datuk Seri Andrew Kam, threw down the gauntlet to Chong Wei, urging him to end the long drought at the 2014 Asiad.
Chong Wei, who won his second consecutive Olympic silver medal at the London Games recently, has set his sights on winning honours at the 2013 World Championships and 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
He has also said that he may have a tilt at the 2016 Rio Olympics if his body and mind are up to it.
“No Malaysian has won the Asiad gold after Punch and that should be Chong Wei’s target,” said Andrew, who paid his last respects to Punch at his residence yesterday.
Punch, who passed away on Wednesday after succumbing to liver cancer, had an enviable record as both a singles and doubles player.
He won singles gold at the SEA Games, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and nailed a silver at the 1972 Munich Olympics where badminton was an exhibition event.
He also captured the doubles gold with Ng Boon Bee in Munich. The duo were almost unbeatable from 1970-72 and collected a slew of titles including the All-England crown.
“Punch won almost all the major tournaments in his time. Unfortunately, badminton wasn’t an Olympic sport during his era. He also went full circle as an excellent coach and administrator. His achievements are truly praiseworthy and he will always be remembered,” said Andrew.
Punch was an inspiring coach and mentor to many players and held top positions in the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Association (KLBA), Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), Badminton Asia Confederation (BAC) and World Badminton Federation (BWF).
Andrew said Punch was the role model he had looked up to in badminton just as the present generation stood in awe of Chong Wei’s exploits.
“In schools, we looked up to Punch for his achievements and the style he exuded on court. He was what Chong Wei is to many now. Punch also revolutionised the art of smashing,” he said.
When asked whether he would dangle a carrot for Chong Wei to nail his first Asiad title, Andrew said: “The glory of emulating a legend should be good enough. Don’t ask me about gold bars right now,” he quipped.
Prior to the London Olympics, Andrew had offered two gold bars, worth RM2mil, for the first shuttler to win a gold medal.
The glittering reward almost went to Chong Wei but the Malaysian let slip a golden opportunity when he lost 21-15, 10-21, 19-21 to China’s Lin Dan after taking an 18-16 lead in the decider of an enthralling men’s singles final.
The Asiad gold may not be worth RM2mil but it will certainly be the stuff of legends.