Tuesday, June 15, 1993

My super dad

FRANCISCO "Tatang" De Vega, women sprint ace Lydia's father, has been
coaching her for 16 years and spent so much money on him and his daughter
that he cannot say how much.
And he is still at it, coaching and spending, all because of his love
for his daughter and athletics.
But he has one more reason why he and his daughter are still at it - to
prove to Filipinos and burcreacy that they can still go on and produce
results despite the poor financial support they get.
In fact, Tatang and Lydia are seriously calling it quits after the
Singapore Sea Games - provided that Lydia wins the double: the 100m and
"We have gone through some hard times over the 16 years, but we want to
prove that we can still carry on and produce results despite the poor
support we get," said the 66-year-old Tatang.
"But I have to thank some individual and private sponsors who have been
supportive to keep us going."
The fact that Lydia is married with a four-year-old daughter and still
running is proof of their determination.
"I am lucky that my son-in-law (Mercado) also thinks like us and wants
Lydia to continue. There were times when Lydia had wanted to call it
quits, but he got her to keep at it and even presuaded me a couple of time
to carry on when I was contemplating throwing in the towel."
Tatang said that although he had encountered financial problems, running
into hitches with athletics national sports offcials, having to face the
critics who were quick to critise when things were not going well for
Lydia, he has always derived his satisfaction when Lydia does well.
It all started 16 years ago when Lydia as a 12-year-old was spotted by
her school teacher as a potential athlete and fielded in her schools meet.
"I went to see her run in her school and I too thought she had a natural
ability to become an athlete," said the former policeman.
"It was then I decided that I will personally coach Lydia. But then I
did not have any coaching abilities in athletics. So I decided to attend
athletics coaching courses which saw me paying for it as I went to Japan,
the United States, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan.
"Then later the Philippines AAA also sent me for a few courses.
"It has been long hours of work, sacrifices, sweat, tears and pain, but
I have no regrets," said Tatang who, after quitting the Police Force in
1965, became a goldsmith.
While making gold jewellery, he was spending an equal amount of time and
money to shape the uncut diamond - Lydia - and he has certainly made her
polished and shining over the years.
Lydia who won her first Sea Games gold medal at the 1981 Sea Games in
Manila and has gone on to win it at the 1987 Games in Jakarta with a
personal best of 11.28 which is the Games record and won it for the third
time at the Manila Games in 1991.
Lydia is the fourth in a family of six - three brothers and three
sisters. He is the eldest among the sisters.
Lydia's mother, Mario Sarto, plays the role of housewife and gives her
morale support, advice and love by staying in the background.
"I owe my dad a great deal. For the last 16 years he has toiled for me
to make me become what I am in the athletics circle and is still at it.
"I am thankful to God for giving me such a father. And I hope that I
will have an eventful outting in Singapore as a parting present for him,"
said Lydia without wanting to elaborate.

Sunday, June 13, 1993

Queen of the tracks

THE Filipinos are sure that Lydia De Vega Mercado will retain the 100m
Lydia's main rival is none other than Malaysia's G. Shanti who lost to
her in the Manila Games. Shanti, however, turned the tables on the
Filipina in the 200m.
Although Lydia's father and coach, 65-year-old Franciso Tatang' de Vega
has been modest about his daughter's chances, athletics followers feel the
others are intimidated by Lydia's presence.
"Lydia has charisma. The opponents fear her," said a veteran athletics
journalist from the Philippines, E. Fernandez.
"The 200m will be an open affair. But we believe the 100m belongs to
Lydia. She will pull through the challenge from Shanti."
Ten years ago, at Singapore, Lydia was shocked by Thailand's Wallapa
Tangjinutsorn. However, at the same venue in the Asian Track and Field
championships in 1987, she triumped over India's P.T. Usha clocking
Naturally, Lydia is hoping to be as lucky as she was in the ATF meet
when she appears for the third time at the National Stadium.
"It is going to be keenly contested. I too want to win but a great deal
will depend on what happens on race day," said the 28-year-old athlete.
Lydia is the holder of both the 100m and 200m Sea Games record - 11.28
and 23.54 respectively - which clocked at the 1987 and 1981 Games
At the last Games in Manila where Lydia edged Shanti, she clocked 11.44.
Her personal best for the 100m was clocked during the 1987 Sea Games in
Jakarta and is the closest an Asian woman has come to Chi Cheng's
Continental record of 11.22 recorded in Vienna in 1970.
Malaysian coach Harun Rasheed Othuman said it is going to be a touch-
and-go affair.
"It could be Lydia, Shanti or any of the other athletes because most of
them have been clocking around 10.4 recently," said Rasheed.
"Shanti has been shaping up well and a great deal will depend on what
actually happens on that day. we just hope that everything goes well for
her, like a good start."
The 26-year-old athlete has been shying away from publicity and quietly
preparing herself.
The Perak-born athlete said: "I have trained hard and am mentally
prepared, but I am sure Lydia has been training hard too. I really cannot
say anything except that the best woman will win. We will see how I
In the recent selection trials for the Sea Games last month, Shanti
clocked 11.50 erasing her previous national record of 11.51 set in 1991.
While focus is on Lydia and Shanti, Vietnam's Truong Hoang My Linh is
also secretly hoping to be the party spoiler.
The 24-year-old athlete who has been the national champion since 1985 in
both the 100m and 200m, had clocked 11.95 at the Thai Open recently to be
placed third behind Taiwan's Olympic semifinalist Wang Huei Chen and
China's Qi Hong.
The soft spoken Troung revealed that it was her dream to get the gold
medal in the sea Games. But she was quick to add: "It's my dream but I
really cannot tell what chances I have for a medal. I want to do my best,
but anything can happen. We'll have to wait and see."
The 100m semifinals is the fourth event on the first day of the
athletics programme tomorrow at 9.20am.
Shanti will be running in Lane 4 in the second semifinal together with
Mona Kunalan (Singapore), Marsita Kamel Jumat (Brunei), Rhoda Sinoro
(Philippines), Savitree Srichure (Thailand), Truang and Rita Pattepeilohy.