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'Asia's fastest woman' Lydia De Vega dies after battle with breast cancer

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Aug 11, 2022 10:10 am

Filipino sports icon Lydia De Vega-Mercado passed away on Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the Makati Medical Center after a hard-fought battle with breast cancer for four years.

Her death was announced by her daughter and volleyball player, Stephanie, who said that De Vega "fought the very good fight and is now at peace."

"Wake details will be announced very soon but for now, I would wholeheartedly appreciate your prayers for the soul of my mother. Maraming salamat po!" she added.

Stephanie revealed in July 20 that her mother was in critical condition due to her stage four breast cancer, which she had been diagnosed with in 2018 and had been silently fighting.

Once considered as Asia's fastest woman in the 1980s, De Vega was born on December 26, 1964 in in Meycauayan, Bulacan. The 57-year-old track and field legend kickstarted her rich athletic career when she became a part of the national sports program Gintong Alay, which was launched during the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

She was trained by her own father, Tatang, who also served as her PR and sports psychologist. She also underwent training from Claro Pellosis, Santos Magno, and Anthony Benson.

Their hard work paid off more than once, as De Vega would soon become an inspiration for athletes after she emerged victorious in the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Athletics Championships, and Asian Games.

De Vega won nine gold medals from the Southeast Asian Games, four from the Asian Athletics Championships, and two from the Asian Games. She also brought home silver and bronze medals.

She earned the title of Asia’s fastest woman after winning the 100-meter dash events in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games. She also represented the country in the Olympics in 1984 and 1988.

De Vega retired from her athletic career in 1994, but returned to the spotlight once more in 2019 when she was among the flag bearers during the 30th Southeast Asian Games opening ceremony.

Many took the time to express their sadness at the spring queen's passing.

Far Eastern University, where De Vega studied, said that De Vega's legacy will always be remembered by athletes.

"Far Eastern University is saddened by the passing of Philippine athletics legend and FEU Sports Hall of Famer Lydia De Vega-Mercado. [A] beloved and highly-respected figure especially in the Track and Field circle, her legacy will remain an inspiration to all FEU athletes onwards," the university wrote.

TV host and fomer volleyball player Gretchen Ho expressed her condolences to the family, saying that she was inspired by De Vega.

"As a young athlete who had the chance to play alongside her daughter, Stephanie, we were very much inspired by tales of our teammate’s mom. Pagpupugay at salamat sa inspirasyon sa aming mga atleta," she wrote. 

"She will always be the darling of Phl sports. Rest in peace Lydia De Vega. You will never be forgotten," one user tweeted.

"Sad day for Philippine sports. To the Fastest Woman in Asia, Ms. Lydia de Vega-Mercado, thank you for your love for our Country. Rest well in God’s loving arms," another one wrote.

One user shared that his History subject during elementary was made more inspirational because of the athlete, "Sad news. During our elementary days, our Sibika classes were very inspiring because of people like Lydia de Vega - Filipinos who give honor to our country while our corrupt leaders do all kinds of sh*t."