By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino answered the prayers of many sporting fans by providing financial assistance to the legendary Lydia de Vega-Mercado, who is now racing against time in her long and courageous battle with the dreaded Big C.
Tolentino said he will donate P100,000 to De Vega-Mercado, who has been suffering in silence since she was diagnosed with the deadly disease four years ago. She had lost considerable amount of power that she used to humble and overtake her rivals in the 80s like the proverbial wind.
“Yes, I will give P100,000 direct to the hospital from my personal account,” said Tolentino.
Hopefully – and prayerfully – more help will come, especially from big-hearted corporations as the one-time Asian sprint queen is in critical condition due to Stage 4 breast cancer complications.
The tall and beautiful Meycauyan, Bulacan runner zoomed into the nation’s consciousness with her magical run in the century dash during 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.
Up against local heroine P.T. Usha, the then 18-year-old de Vega – she’s fondly called Diay – came through with an electrifying burst of speed to silence almost 70,000 fans, what with her long and graceful strides. She timed 11.76 seconds in winning the centerpiece event.
That win was majestic, according to a long-retired but revered sports editor.
She repeated the feat four years later in Seoul Asian Games in a performance that ushered her entry among sporting greats.
Tolentino came to the rescue after Stephanie de Koenigswarter, De Vega-Mercado’s daughter, made the call for help in a social media post Wednesday.
It also came a day after the Philippine Sports Commission through executive director and officer-in-charge Atty. Guillermo Iroy, Jr. gave assistance upon the instruction of no less than President Bongbong Marcos himself.
Prayers also poured shortly after Stephanie announced the condition of the long-time track queen on social media Wednesday.
Stephanie’s former teammates and rivals in volleyball – being a former La Salle star – including Melissa Gohing, Gretchen Ho, Jem Ferrer, Mika Reyes, and Charo Soriano also made rounds to gather support.
She also competed in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympics but had no success against the best from the United States.