By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
WE, in sports desks were saddened by the demise of former Asia’s queen of sprint Lydia de Vega, fondly called “Diay” among her relatives, friends and athletic mates. After the glamorous athletic lass from Meycauayan, Bulacan gave great accolades to our nation, her losing the battle against breast cancer at a young age of 57 last August 10 is truly mournful. Honestly, even this writer was unaware of her illness.
I was in Guam during Diay’s prime era and I followed her sports career thru a Filipino channel in Guam anchored by Popoy Zamora and in our national dailies every day like the Times Journal, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Express and some tabloids, to name some, that usually arrived late in the afternoon, We, the Filipinos in Guam, especially my fellow basketball fanatics were so proud of her lifting our country in the field of sports having dominated the biennial Southeast Asia (SEA) Games, ASEAN Cup and most especially, the prestigious quadrennial meet the 1982 Asian Games held in New Delhi, India and the 1986 Seoul, South Korea Asiad where she was hailed as the fastest woman in Asia.
Her closest rival in 1980s was P.T. Usha of India. The two faced each other many times during their prime days, particularly in 10 finals in the Asian Games and Asian Championships. Although Usha defeated Diay in the 200 meters race, Diay outraced Usha in the century dash (100 meters) twice. First in the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games with almost 70,000 spectators in attendance, a record, and in Seoul in 1986 Asian Games. Usha finally defeated Diay in the century dash in the 1985 Jakarta, Indonesia Asian Championships but Diay avenged her defeat in 1987 Asian Championships in Singapore. Let me clarify that Asian Games is different to Asian Championships because Asian Games are being held every four years while Asian Championships are held biennially. Diay’s time of 11.28 seconds in winning the 1987 SEA Games century dash is still unsurpassed, until now.
There were some attempts among running pundits who tried to convince Diay that she could have done much better if she concentrated in the more punishing 400-meter dash event which was suited to her physique and toned-muscles. She could have won Olympic Games medals, then at 23 years old and at the peak of her career. Among those who tried to convince her was Australian track coach Anthony Benson after Diay bettered the times of Asian Games and SEA Games at very young age of 16 showing potential for an Olympic podium finish. Benson said that her 11.6 seconds time in the century dash was way off the time of Olympic and world champion Florence Griffith-Joyner of the U.S. with a mark of 10.49 seconds. But Diay and her father-coach Francisco “Tatang” de Vega stayed firm on and remained with the glamour events, the sprints 100 and 200 meter-dash. She succeeded and became the queen of her turf but only in Asian competitions winning the gold medals. Yes, there were rumors then that she could continue her chosen career even after motherhood, but unfortunately, she was a disappointment in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games when she was eliminated for the finals.
She may be gone, gone for good, but she finished the race gallantly, gave a good fight, rendered honors to our nation, honors that will never be forgotten in this age and the next generation. Indisputably, she’s one of the legends in the field of sports.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. PHILIPPIANS 2: 6-7
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