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Ex-Asian sprint queen Lydia de Vega's dad passes away

Francisco “Tatang" De Vega, the father-coach of former Asian sprint queen Lydia De Vega-Mercado, died last Sunday after a long bout with throat cancer. He was 84. Tatang, who was one of the most colorful figures in Philippine sports, is considered a sports icon not only in the Philippines but in the entire Asian athletics scene after guiding his daughter, Lydia, to win back-to-back Asiad gold medals. De Vega-Mercado, under her father's coaching, became the first woman to win consecutive Asian Games (1982 New Delhi and 1986 Seoul) gold medals in the 100-meter run. Considered to be one of the most controversial sports figures in the '80s, Tatang De Vega was hated by many because of the way he handled his daughter's training, said basketball and sports historian Jay P. Mercado. “Tatang wouldn't want to relinquish his coaching position as far as his daughter was concerned. And Lydia performed so much better with her father around, as proven by her record performances," added Mercado. With the elder De Vega’s guidance, his daughter posted records of 11.28 seconds in the 100m dash in the 1987 Jakarta Southeast Asian Games, 23.53 seconds in the 200m run in the 1986 Seoul Asian Games and 54.85 seconds in the 400m run in the 1981 Manila SEA Games. “The said times remain national records to date, if I'm not mistaken. In fact, next to Josephine Dela Viña's discus throw national record set in 1971 and Consuelo Lacusong's shot put record established in 1975, De Vega owns the longest reigning national record among female track and field athletes in the 400m run, dating back 29 years," said Mercado. Although De Vega was not the scientific type of coach capable of running a track team, he proved to be the most effective in making Lydia run her best. “But we can only imagine how Lydia might have fared better had there been a world-class coach teaching her the proper rudiments of running," said Mercado. Mercado said that the elder De Vega even had a brief feud with then Project Gintong Alay head Michael Keon as the latter refused to accredit Tatang as a coach in the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi. “Because of this, Lydia refused to run, forcing then First Lady Imelda Marcos to intervene and allow Tatang to come in as Lydia's personal coach. Keon resigned as Project Gintong Alay head but retained his position as Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president. De Vega was a former member of the Meycauayan police force before turning to coaching. His exploits were likened to those of Angel Nepomuceno, the late father-coach of four-time World Cup Bowling Champion Paeng Nepomuceno, as one of the few fathers who, through Spartan-like training, turner their children into world-class athletes. De Vega is survived by his wife Mary and children Danny and Rubie, Dave and Josie, Lydia and Paulo, Delia and Allen and Susan and Randy, and grandchildren. His remains lie in state at the family residence in Barangay Calvario, Meycauayan City. Interment will be announced later. – JVP, KY, GMANews.TV