A string of Philippine peso coins kept among the idols of gods in my pooja room, and a cousin called Lydia. Both embody the strong bond I had with Lydia. The silver coin chain was a gift from Lydia's father during the 1986 Seoul Asian Games. When my aunt gave birth to a baby girl in 1983, I was asked to find a good name for the baby. I did not think twice to name her Lydia!
In the years between 1982 and 1986 editions of the Asian Games, the on-field rivalry between us intensified, so did our friendship. While competing, both of us would try our best to outrun each other. Off the field, we deeply valued each other's company and kept the flame of our friendship burning. When I return home after attending international competitions, my handbag would be filled with made-in-Philippines cosmetics and makeup products like lipsticks, ribbons and earrings. Those small but wonderful gifts from Lydia were very special.
We talked to each other for the first time at the 1982 Delhi Asian Games. In the 100m race, Lydia won the gold and I finished second. In the 200m, I got the silver while Lydia was third. Our fierce battles on the field continued till the 1986 Seoul Asian games. After she beat me in the 100m, I got the better of Lydia in the 200m by just 0.3 seconds. It is one of my most memorable races against Lydia. I have never lost to her in the 200m.
Our last meeting was at the 1987 Asian Athletics Championship held in Singapore. She had contacted me in 2014 during her brief stint as a coach in Singapore. I came to know about her deteriorating health condition in 2018, but never thought we would lose her this early. Adieu, my friend.
(PT Usha is a former Indian athlete)