Sprint queen Lydia de Vega-Mercado, who was considered Asia’s fastest woman during the 1980s, leads the third batch of enshrinees to the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame.
De Vega, who first made waves at the 1981 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in Manila with gold medal performances in the 200 and 400 meter events, were among the 10 who were nominated by a review committee headed by former Philippine Sportswriters Association president Teddyvic Melendres.
Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez said the committee selected from among 17 athletes who excelled before the cutoff year of 1984.
Ramirez heads the selection committee, which is composed of commissioner Celia Kiram and Charles Maxey, Games and Amusement Board’s Abraham Mitra, Philippine Olympic Commission communication chief Ed Picson, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas offcial Bernie Atienza, Philippine Olympian Association member Akiko Thomson and PSA president Eduardo “Dodo” Catacutan of spin.ph.
Ramirez said it was not easy to select the 10 nominees.
De Vega, now 53, also ran away with the gold medal in the 100-meter dash in the 1982 New Delhi Asiad and duplicated the feat in the 1986 Seoul Asiad.
She will be joined by bowler Rafael “Paeng Nepomuceno (bowling), Olivia “Bong” Coo (bowling), Lita de la Rosa (bowling) and Erbito Salavarria (boxing).
Getting posthumous recognition are Sen. Ambrosio Padilla (basketball), Filomeno “Boy” Codinera (baseball/softball), Ben Arda (golf), Bonnie Carbonell (basketball) and Josephine dela Vina (athletics).
De Vega was a two-time Olympian who represented the Philippines at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics.
Among the first inducted to the Hall of Fame were late boxing heroes Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Francisco “Pancho Villa” Gilledo and Ceferino Garcia and Olympians Jose “Cely” Villanueva and his son, Anthony, and Teofilo Yldefonso.
Also included were Simeon Toribio, Miguel White and Caloy “The Big Difference” Loyzaga and the national basketball team which claimed third place in the 1954 World FIBA Championship.
The selection was done in accordance with Republic Act 8757, which was passed in November 1999.
It was not implemented until 11 years later when the PSC, core members of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) and the private sector engaged in sports pushed to finally honor the sports legends.
The inaugural batch was made of sports achievers from 1924, when the country first saw action in the Olympics, to the year 1964, when Asia first held the quadrennial summer games in Tokyo.
In 2016, a second batch of sports heroes headed by chess Grandmaster Eugene Torre were inducted to the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame.
Torre, Asia’s first Grandmaster and a Candidates Match quarterfinalist who led the Philippines to its best finish at No. 8 in the 1988 Thessaloniki Olympiad were feted with swimming’s Hayddee Coloso Espino and Jacinto Cayco, athletics’ Mona Sulaiman, basketball’s Ed Ocampo, Kurt Bachman and Mariano Tolentino, and tennis’ Johnny Jose among others.