Pilavullakandi Thekkeraparambil Usha, popularly known as P.T. Usha, the ultimate rival of the late Lydia de Vega-Mercado, mourned the passing of her good pal and joined the Filipino nation in grieving the loss of a sports legend.
“Deeply saddened on losing my athletics counterpart, a fierce competitor and good friend Lydia de Vega yesterday. She lost her life race to breast cancer but will always be remembered as a champion of life. My deepest condolences to her family!” wrote Usha via Twitter on Thursday, Aug. 11.
The tweet was quoted by de Vega-Mercado’s daughter Stephanie Koenigswarter, who in return thanked the Indian sprint icon for the friendship she had formed with her mother.
“On the track, the biggest rivals; but great friends in life,” wrote Koenigswarter.
De Vega-Mercado and Usha’s rivalry bore fruit which turned out to be a wonderful friendship despite being fierce rivals on the field.
In a report by Sportsstar, Usha revealed that she was informed of the passing as soon as the development made rounds online.
Usha, who is now a Rajya Sabha MP, the Upper House of India’s Parliament, for sports, recalled how De Vega-Mercado gave her a “tough fight” both in the Asian Games and the Asian Championships.
She picked the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, Korea to be the most memorable race they had as the two of the fastest runners in Asia at that time went neck and neck in the 100m and 200m sprint.
De Vega-Mercado, fondly known as Diay, would win the 100m while Usha ruled the 200m.
“She was a very glamorous girl, had a beautiful physique and nicely-toned muscles. She came for training and for races wearing make-up and had a lot of fans. Everybody in our family liked her. In fact, my uncle T.V. Narayanan, who brought me to sport, named his daughter who was born around that time as Lydia,” said the 58-year-old Indian great.
De Vega-Mercado, who was the former Asian sprint queen and made heads turn from 80s to 90s, succumbed to breast cancer Wednesday, Aug. 10, after enduring and fighting for dear life for four years. She was 57.
Diay had a decorated resume at hand, capturing two golds in the Asian Games; four golds in the Asian Championships; and nine golds in the Southeast Asian Games.
She also bannered the country in the Olympics, having competed in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Games.