After Lydia de Vega’s death, lawmakers stress need to support athletes even in retirement

After Lydia de Vegaâs death, lawmakers stress need to support athletes even in retirement
Lydia De Vega waves to fans during the awards rites in the 1981 SEA Games.

MANILA, Philippines — In paying tribute to Lydia de Vega following her death due to cancer, some lawmakers said there is a need to support athletes even in their retirement, recalling how the family of the Filipino track and field legend had to resort to crowdfunding for her treatment in her last days.

“Her death highlights the need for our government and the private sector to support Filipino athletes not only while they are healthy and physically able to compete but in retirement as well,” House Speaker Martin Romualdez said in a statement on Thursday.

Rep. Margarita Nograles (PBA party-list) said she is saddened by the loss of someone she called “one of our first female heroes” and the fact that her family had to publicly ask for financial help.

“In her last days she asked for financial help from the public because there are insufficient programs to support and give retirement benefits for our past Olympians,” Nograles said in a statement, adding she is thinking of ways to support both current and past Olympians.

Tributes also poured in from other lawmakers from the Senate and the House.

Senior House Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in a statement that De Vega “put Philippine sports on the world map and brought much honor to the country.”

For Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, she “not only ruled the race tracks, she also won the hearts of Filipinos for her world-class talent which rallied our country to a great sense of national pride and honor.”

Sen. Robinhood Padilla said Filipinos should thank De Vega for the inspiration she provided as an athlete who put the country on a pedestal.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga (Dasmarinas), meanwhile, said that De Vega’s legacy will live on especially in how she paved the way for the likes of Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz in capturing the imagination of girls in sports.

De Vega-Mercado was deemed as "Asia's fastest woman" during in her prime in the 1980s.

The 57-year-old has collected multiple medals for the Philippines across competitions like the Asian Athletics Championships, Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games.

In the SEA Games alone, De Vega-Mercado is a winner of nine gold medals. She also won two golds in the Asian Games.

Until 2020, De Vega-Mercado held the national record for the women's 100-meter dash with her time of 11.28 seconds.

De Vega-Mercado was also among one of the flag bearers during the opening ceremonies of the 2019 SEA Games here in Manila. — Xave Gregorio with a report from Luisa Morales


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