Asian ‘track queen’ and P.T. Usha’s fierce rival on track, Lydia de Vega loses battle to cancer

After a four-year struggle with breast cancer, track legend Lydia de Vega, once regarded as Asia’s fastest woman and one of the Philippines’ most accomplished and adored athletes passed away at 57. 

In a statement, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said “De Vega has run her last race.”

“She has finished her contest. She has fought a good fight. Let us pray for her peace,” he said.

“She fought the very good fight and is now at peace,” de Vega’s daughter Stephanie De Koenigswarter said in a Facebook post late Wednesday. 

Throughout her career, De Vega earned 15 gold medals, including nine at the South-east Asian Games.

When she won gold medals in the 200 and 400 metres at the 1981 Manila SEA Games at the age of just 16, she quickly rose to fame on the track in the Philippines.

She went on to dominate the 200m in the 1983 and 1987 SEA Games, and then rule the 100m in the 1987, 1991 and 1993 SEA Games.

Asia’s sports fans know De Vega most for her epic battle with India’s Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, or P.T. Usha.

Filipino athlete actress Lydia De Vega raises her hand in triumph after winning the Asiad ‘82 women’s 100 metre race. On the far right (No.488) is P.T. Usha of India, who finished second to add to India’s silver medal tally at the Nineth Asian Games held in New Delhi on November 27, 1982.

Filipino athlete actress Lydia De Vega raises her hand in triumph after winning the Asiad ‘82 women’s 100 metre race. On the far right (No.488) is P.T. Usha of India, who finished second to add to India’s silver medal tally at the Nineth Asian Games held in New Delhi on November 27, 1982. Photo credits: SPORTSTAR

The first time the two faced off was in the 100m at the 1982 Asian Games, where de Vega won after taking the lead halfway through.

However, Usha had reached the pinnacle of her career by 1985, winning five gold medals at the Asian Championships in Indonesia. De Vega on the other hand won a bronze medal. 

Then, in the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, de Vega once again underlined her dominance in her preferred event: the one-kilometer race, while Usha—known as the “Payyoli Express”—dominated the 400-meter and 400-meter hurdles.

P.T. Usha took to Twitter to share her condolences. 

×

(With inputs from agencies)