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PT Usha's greatest rival Lydia de Vega loses her prolonged battle with cancer

Athletics

Bengaluru, August 12: Asia's former sprint queen Lydia de Vega passed away at the age of 57 after losing prolonged batttle with cancer on Thursday (August 11).

The Philippines star shared very cordial relationship with Indian sprint queen PT Usha with whom she fought many close battles on the track including the famous 1986 Seoul Asian Games.

PT Usha, who is currently a Member of Rajya Sabha paid glowing tributes to De Vega.

"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!," PT Usha tweeted.

De Vega was the star of track and field in the early 80's where she won four gold medals, three silvers and three bronzes in the Asian Track and Field Championships and two gold medals and a silver at the Asian Games.

"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," De Vega's daughter Stephanie said in a Facebook post.

"She fought the very good fight and is now at peace."

It was also Stephanie (a former volleyball player), who broke the news to the public on July 21 that her mother was critically ill.

Lydia de Vega

She said her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and has been silently fighting the disease for the past four years.

As the disease progressed, her condition quickly worsened despite her many procedures, including brain surgery.

Financial support poured in from all sectors, from President Bongbong Marcos Jr., the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to Chooks-to-Go, sports personalities like pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and even private citizens.

De Vega, with her glamour looks was the toast of Philippine athletics in the 1980s, having won the 100M and 200M gold medals in the Asian Athletics Championship in 1983 and 1987 and the 100M gold medal in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games.

A product of Project Gintong Alay during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr, De Vega competed and won multiple medals in the Southeast Asian Games from 1981 to 1993.

The rivalry between PT Usha and De Vega is part of athletics folklore.

PT Usha has run nearly 10 finals against De Vega at the Asian Games and Asian Championships and had lost the Asiad 100M final twice -- New Delhi 1982 and Seoul 1986 -- to the ace Filipino.

At the Asian Championships 100M, PT Usha had beaten De Vega in Jakarta 1985 and lost to her in Singapore 1987.

"My most memorable races against Lydia were in the 1986 Asian Games. After she beat me in the 100M, I came from behind and beat her in the 200M with a nice dip at the finish," Usha was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

"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 a 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," recalled PT Usha.

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Story first published: Friday, August 12, 2022, 9:46 [IST]
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