FOR many Filipinos, Manny Pacquiao is their biggest sports hero because of what he has done in boxing, winning an unprecedented eight world titles in eight different divisions. But for me, one of the biggest heroes to have graced our country is none other than the legendary Lydia de Vega.
I learned of her exploits only when I started reading the sports pages in the early 90s and it was unfortunate that it was the tail-end of a remarkable career that had her earning the tag Asia’s fastest woman.
She won the gold medal in the 100-meter run in the Asian Games in 1982 and 1986 and we haven’t come close to having an athlete like her in the two decades since her retirement. And it’s frustrating to say the least.
With the rest of our sports picking up their pace--basketball, football, boxing and volleyball--when it comes to track and field, we haven’t had another Lydia de Vega.
It is quite ironic that while basketball and football have benefitted from having the sons of OFWs back in the fold—Filipino-foreigners—Lydia de Vega is now herself an OFW, molding young athletes of Singapore.
Of course, her name usually crops up when we talk of our glorious history in track and field or of about how we need to look for another Lydia de Vega instead of relying solely on Fil-foreigners.
But that’s a slippery slope. Our football team for example has benefitted greatly from the diaspora, as the sons and daughters of our OFWs have returned home to play for the national team.
And they’re not shy in displaying their loyalty and showing their love for the country. Daisuke Sato and Neil Etheridge flew all the way from Europe and back for the group stage of the Suzuki Cup.
They’re skipping the semifinals because they’re back with their clubs but the two are expected to be in the team again in next year’s Asian Cup, which will be part of the Fifa window.
There’s also Jordan Clarkson, who had a brief stint with us in the Asian Games and is expected to be back if we make the World Cup. And of course, there are the members of Gilas Pilipinas, who won’t hesitate to give their all once they get a chance to be part of the team.
For me, like Lydia de Vega, the guys who represent the flag are our sports heroes.