Remember Mona Sulaiman?
Long before Lydia de Vega, there was Mona Sulaiman.
Inducted into the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame only last January, Sulaiman is now frail and wheelchair-bound. It is said that she still doesn’t want to draw attention to herself after all these years.
Now 74, Sulaiman was once the brightest star of Philippine athletics, winning, among others, three gold medals in the 1962 Asian Games with victories in the 100- and 200-meter sprints and in the relay.
She represented the Philippines in the 1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo Olympics, making the quarterfinals in the century dash in the former.
Sulaiman was the first of the so-called “barefoot wonders” from Cotabato who started out in dirt tracks and shone in regional meets.
A multiple national record-holder, Sulaiman also excelled in pentathlon and discus throw.
Yet long before the controversial Nancy Navalta, there was Mona Sulaiman.
Sulaiman’s features and build, as well as her incredible speed, made people question her gender.
She would later admit in interviews that she was hurt by questions about her gender. Although she qualified for the 1966 Asian Games, she reportedly opted out of the national track team because she could not take the insult of undergoing gender verification tests.
Instead, she bade farewell to sports and worked in the private sector until the 1990s, when she was tapped by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to serve as a consultant tasked with monitoring the performances of national tracksters.
Whether or not she has large quantities of testosterone, which belongs to a class of male hormones, it cannot be denied that Sulaiman is the country’s first sprints star.
Her former colleagues at PSC can’t tell where she now lives in Pasay City, her last known place of residence.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.