Former Indian table tennis national champion Manmeet Singh Walia died at 58 in Montreal, Canada on Monday after a prolonged battle with illness.

Manmeet Singh, who won the 1988 senior national title beating S Sriram in the final at Hyderabad, was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for over a year.

Singh was a consistent member of the Indian team in the 1980s along with Kamlesh Mehta, Manjeet Dua, B Arun Kumar and V Chandrasekhar. His impressive performance against two world top-10 North Korean players in India’s 5-4 loss in the 1980 Asian Table Tennis Championships quarter-finals in Kolkata is still talked in the table tennis fraternity.

Singh’s wins included beating then world No six Jo Young Ho, their top player, and another player who was World No 13, reported PTI.

Singh, who presented Bank Sports Board, had moved to Canada after his retirement.

Former teammate and Indian legend Mehta said that Singh was one of the best in the 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 [performance] was crucial as he won both his rubbers and put India ahead. India finished fifth in the championships,” said Mehta according to PTI.

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.

“In death, too, it was very early,” added Mehta, who was Singh’s teammate in Bank Sports Board tournaments.

TTFI Secretary General MP Singh 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.

(With PTI inputs)