MANILA, Philippines – Philippine sports icon and track legend Lydia de Vega died on Wednesday, August 10, after a four-year battle with breast cancer. She was 57.
“She fought the very good fight and is now at peace,” De Vega’s daughter, Stephanie “Paneng” Mercado-de Koenigswarter, said in a social media post late Wednesday.
One of the most decorated athletes in the country’s history, De Vega amassed 15 gold medals across multiple international competitions, including nine from the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games alone.
Asia’s former track queen also earned four Asian Athletics Championships – two in 1983 and two more in 1987 – and also had two Asian Games gold medals in 1982 and 1986.
Fondly called Diay, De Vega was a two-time Olympian and joined the quest for the Philippines’ first gold medal in 1984 and 1988.
After winning her last two SEA Games medals in 1993, De Vega retired at the age of 30 at the 1994 Manila-Fujian Games, where the well-loved athlete capped off her career with an “easy victory” at the 100-meter dash, per an October 26, 1994 newspaper report.
Last July 20, Mercado-De Koenigswarter made public her mother’s health status, noting that the Philippine sports great “is in very critical condition.”
Mercado-De Koenigswarter asked the public for prayers and donations as the retired sports star had been battling stage 4 breast cancer since 2018.
Describing De Vega’s condition as “the biggest race of her life,” Mercado-De Koenigswarter shared that the Philippine sports icon, who was then confined at Makati Medical Center, was unable to speak but said their family remains positive that De Vega could hear them talk to her.
Since stepping away from the limelight, De Vega settled for a quiet life as a coach based in Singapore while her daughter Paneng rose to fame as a volleyball player.
De Vega made one of her last major public appearances at the Philippines’ hosting of the 2019 SEA Games, where she was one of the country’s flag bearers alongside fellow legends like Efren “Bata” Reyes, Paeng Nepomuceno, and Eric Buhain.