Tributes poured for legendary track queen Lydia de Vega-Mercado not only for the legacy she has cemented in Philippine sports but also for her gentle soul.
Laoag City Mayor Michael Keon, who was the former director of the Gintong Alay Project where de Vega-Mercado was discovered, has nothing but praises for the sprint queen.
“Lydia was a pioneer in track and field. She was perhaps the most bemedalled Filipino athlete not just in track and field, but in all sports,” Keon said.
During de Vega-Mercado’s prime, the legend was an unstoppable force in the sprints not just in Southeast Asian but the whole Asian region.
Fondly called “Diay”, de Vega-Mercado was a two-time Asian Games gold medalist, four-time Asian champion and nine-time Southeast Asian Games gold winner.
She was also a two-time Olympian, having represented the country in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Keon fondly remembered a local race where de Vega-Mercado, then 16 years old, broke records in the 400 meters. He knew then that the country has a world-class athlete in the making.
“She was one of the luminaries in sports. That’s why I hope that her passing would not be in vain,” said Keon, adding that the loss of de Vega-Mercado can help the country focus not only on excelling in specific sports, but also on a collective system as a whole.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino said de Vega-Mercado “left an imprint to the hearts and minds of all the people she inspired.”
“Her story will always be a success, a story to all athletes that Filipinos are capable of being on the pedestal especially to those who dream and pursue it,” Tolentino said.
Former PATAFA chief Philip Juico also described de Vega-Mercado as a role model and inspiration “as an authentic 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 intact,” Juico said.
Commissioner Bong Coo of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) also mourned “an irreplaceable loss to the sporting community.”
“I grieve as an athlete and friend. Lydia is my contemporary. Kasama ko siya, kapanahon,” Coo said.
“I am sure her legacy and achievements will continue to inspire for generations to come, as she was also an inspiration to me.”