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‘Diay’ graces Palaro opening

by Kristel Satumbaga

Lydia de Vega-Mercado provides star power in today’s Palarong Pambansa’s opening in Vigan City. (MB File photo)

Lydia de Vega-Mercado provides star power in today’s Palarong Pambansa’s opening in Vigan City. (MB File photo)

VIGAN CITY – With legendary trackster Lydia “Diay” De Vega-Mercado among the esteemed guests in today’s opening of the 2018 Palarong Pambansa, the organizing Department of Education and host Ilocos Sur are hoping to unearth new talents who will relive the country’s sporting glory in the near future.

Unlike the golden era when Filipinos are among the feared competitors, sports officials are having hard time to produce athletes as prolific and disciplined as De Vega-Mercado.

The pride of Bulacan was one of the best products of the Gintong Alay program.

She still holds the national records in the women’s 100m (11.28sec) and 200m (23.35sec) which she posted at the 1987 Jakarta Southeast Asian Games and a 1986 race meet in Walnut, United States, respectively.

Now 53, De Vega-Mercado competed in the Olympics twice — 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Games.

During her Palaro days, De Vega-Mercado ruled all the sprint events in record-breaking fashions.

Acknowledged as Asia’s fastest woman in the 1980s, De Vega-Mercado will be joined by four-time World Cup bowling champion Paeng Nepomuceno, 1996 Atlanta Olympics boxing silver winner Onyok Velasco, 2016 Rio Games weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, Asia’s first Grandmaster Eugene Torre, veteran swimmer Eric Buhain and long jump queen Elma Muros-Posadas as the event’s special guest.

The presence of these personalities who factored in the growth of their respective sports are expected to inspire elementary and high school student-athletes not only to excel in their respective events but also to become better citizens someday.

Making the opening of the event star-studded is the presence of President Duterte.

Duterte believes in the empowerment of the youth.

Duterte, in his speech during the opening of the Palarong Pambansa last year in San Jose, Antique, underscored the importance of building competitiveness, camaraderie and values among the youth.

The President said his administration is giving high priority to education to prepare the Filipino youth for the future ,noting that they will be the country’s nation builders.

“We are pouring money on the education sector. You have the biggest appropriation in the annual budget and for the rest of my term it will be because I’ve always believed na ang edukasyon (that education) would save us someday,” he told the crowd of young athletes.

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