New Delhi: Manmeet Singh Walia, who was suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) for nearly two years, passed away in Montreal, Canada, yesterday.
He was 58 and is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Manmeet was suffering from ALS, a rare disease that causes motor neuron degeneration, leading to voluntary muscle impairment. He had visited his doctors in Coimbatore also, trying to seek advice and find a cure. But he knew full well that there was no cure for it, yet he had put himself up bravely to fight the disease till he breathed his last.
One of the finest and consistent performers in the 80s, Manmeet became the national champion in 1989 when he beat S. Sriram in the men singles final at Hyderabad. He had represented the country at multiple international events after making his debut at the Asian Championships in 1980 Kolkata along with eight-time national champion Kamlesh Mehta.
The Indian squad then, comprising Manjeet Singh Dua, Kamlesh Mehta, B. Arun Kumar, Manmeet and V. Chandrasekhar, led 4-2 before losing 4-5 to North Korea. Manmeet’s two crucial wins included beating then World No. 6 Jo Young Ho, their top player, and another player who was World No. 13. Manmeet was all of just 18 then.
Manmeet, however, could not repeat his Hyderabad performance in the subsequent nationals but he had made it to the finals four times on the trot since 1981. After he retired from the sport, he went to Canada and settled there.
Recalling his association with Manmeet, Kamlesh said that he was one of the best in business those days. “He and I made our debut together in the Kolkata Asian championships. Only Chandra, Arun and Manmeet got to play the match against the North Koreans. And, Manmeet’s was crucial as he won both his rubbers and put India ahead. India finished fifth in the championships,” said Kamlesh.
His senior in the squad, Manjeet also spoke highly of his state-mate who could have gone on to play a few more years. “We thought his retirement was a little too premature,” he said. Kamlesh, too, echoed his views along a similar line. “In death, too, it was very early,” added Kamlesh, who was Manmeet’s teammate in Bank Sports Board tournaments.
TTFI Secretary General M.P. Singh, condoling his death, said it was a sad moment for the entire table tennis fraternity. “I have interacted with him as a player during my playing days as well as in recent times when he came to Delhi a couple of years ago. I have lost a good friend,” he said.
Dhanraj Choudhary, a former secretary general, also recalled his association with Manmeet and said that “table tennis has lost a good player, an easy-going personality and a good friend.”
Joining those condoling his untimely death, old-timers like Anand Prakash and A.S. Kler, who had officiated the matches in which Manmeet played, said they lost a “very good friend,” who kept to himself and the sport.