Tributes from local and international leaders poured in for former Asian track queen Lydia de Vega-Mercado, who died on Wednesday after a long bout with Stage 4 cancer.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. led the tributes as he offered his “condolences and mourning” for De Vega-Mercado’s family.
“I join the entire nation in mourning the untimely demise of former Asian sprint queen Lydia de Vega, after a four-year battle with breast cancer,” Marcos said. “My sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones.”
Marcos also recognized the Olympic career of De Vega, known by her nickname Diay, when she placed the Philippines on the Olympic Map during her gold-medal feat in the 100-meter sprint of the Asian Games of 1982 and 1986.
“Lydia was once touted as the fastest woman in Asia and she placed the Philippines in the map of international athletics. She won the 100-meter gold medal in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games,”the President said.
Legislators, led by Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, on Thursday also condoled with the family of the retired Filipino sprinter, who died at the age of 57.
“Lydia de Vega was one of the greatest and the most decorated Filipino athletes. She brought honor and pride to our country by winning numerous medals in the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and Asian Athletics Championships,” Romualdez said.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino also joined the country and his fellow sports leaders in grief.
“Another sad day for Philippine sports, and although we lost a great icon, she made an imprint on the hearts of all the people she inspired,” Tolentino said on Thursday. “Her story will always be a success story to all athletes that Filipinos are capable of being in the pedestal specially to those who dream and pursue it.”
Several of Tolentino’s fellow national Olympic committee leaders expressed their grief over the Filipina icon’s passing.
“On behalf of Brunei Darussalam NOC, I would like to convey our sincere condolences to the Philippines NOC and the family of the late Lydia de Vega,”said Brunei NOC president Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah.
“Our deepest condolences to the family of the late Lydia de Vega and all Philippines NOC,” said Indonesia Olympic Committee president Raja Sapta Oktohari, who like Tolentino also heads his country’s cycling federation. “May she rest In peace.”
Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, was among the first to convey his condolences.
“Her legacy continues to live on. May she Rest In Peace,” Wongsuwan said.
Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin said: “Our deepest condolences to the POC and the family of the late Lydia de Vega. Who can’t forget the iconic Queen of the track?”
De Vega-Mercado’s last public appearance was during the opening ceremony of the 2019 30th SEA Games at the New Clark City, where she carried the Philippine flag, together with fellow sports icons.
The Straits Times of Singapore also carried the news about the demise of Asia’s track queen in the 1980s, quoting Philippine athletics’ chief Terry Capistrano.
“We lost one of our own, one of our best, but her spirit will live on in our hearts,” he said.
Singapore was a special place for Lydia as she lived in the island state for a few years starting in 2005, when she was hired to coach children and people with disabilities.
Former athletics’ president Philip Juico expressed sadness over the loss of a role model and Filipino athlete, who “genuinely loved sports for the good it could do and not for what she could get out of it.”
“She knew that a force for good like sports should bring out the best in people. Diay joins many other sporting greats who fought the good fight and finished the race with their principles.”
De Vega-Mercado’s daughter Stephanie announced the death of her mother on Thursday.
“On behalf of our family, it is with absolute grief that I announce the death of my mother, Lydia De Vega this evening, August 10, 2022, at the Makati Medical Center,” said Stephanie in a Facebook post.
“She fought the very good fight and is now at peace.”
De Vega was a four-time Asian champion, two-time Asian Games gold medalist, and nine-time Southeast Asian games gold medalist.