Lydia De Vega, a runner billed as Asia’s fastest woman in the 1980s and one of the Philippines’ most famous athletes, lost a four-year battle with breast cancer at 57, announced his family.
Stephanie Mercado de Koenigswarter, De Vega’s daughter, announced her death via a Facebook post on Wednesday evening.
“On behalf of our family, it is with absolute sorrow that I announce the passing of my mother, Lydia De Vega, tonight, August 10, 2022, at Makati Medical Center,” she said. “She fought the very good fight and is now at peace.”
Mercado de Koenigswarter, a volleyball star in the Philippines, is the daughter of De Vega and her husband, Paul Mercado.
De Vega, a two-time Olympian, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. Her family recently appealed to the public for help in continuing her treatments.
Born on December 26, 1964 in the town of Meycauayan, Bulacan province, De Vega was the daughter of a policeman who oversaw her training and pushed her to excel.
Throughout his career in the 1980s and early 1990s, De Vega won 15 gold medals, including the 100 meter race at the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games and the 100 and 200 meter sprint double at the Asian Athletics Championships in 1983 and 1987. .
She won a total of nine gold medals and one silver in the 100 and 200 meter races, as well as the 400 meter and long jump at five Southeast Asian Games.
De Vega turned pro at 18 and became the most popular Filipino athlete of her day, long before boxing legend Manny Pacquiao rose to fame.
With his good looks, the track superstar won the hearts of legions of fans in a poor country struggling with martial law under longtime dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. Marcos fled the country in 1986 after being driven out by a “people power” revolt that restored democracy.
On Thursday, Marcos’ son, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., paid tribute to De Vega, saying the Philippines mourned the loss of the “sprint queen”.
“My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones,” the president said. “Lydia was once touted as Asia’s fastest woman and she put the Philippines on the international athletics map.”
De Vega, he said, had “run his last race.”
“She finished her competition. She put up a good fight. Let us pray for his peace,” Marcos said.
De Vega retired in 1994 and traded public life for a quieter existence in Singapore, where she helped children and people with disabilities. In 2019, De Vega carried the Philippine flag at the SEA Games, his last public appearance.
Renowned Filipino photographer Ernie Sarmiento, who captured photos of De Vega in the heat of the moment (as seen in the lead photo for this article), said she was “always the darling of the press.”
“Not just because she is Asia’s sprint queen, but because of her inner and outer beauty,” he said in a Facebook post.