Kayla Sanchez eager to make most of her maiden Asian Games stint

Kayla Sanchez swimming

FILE – Kayla Sanchez adjusts her goggles as she prepares to compete in a heat for the women’s 50m freestyle swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

HANGZHOU, China—Kayla Noelle Sanchez is out to demonstrate a sprinkling of her billing in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay on Sunday at the kick-off of aquatic events in the 19th Asian Games.

Though joining two-time Olympian Jasmine Alkhaldi, Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Tiea Isabella Salvino and Miranda Renner in the quartet swim comes as an aperitif, Sanchez cutting through water at high speed will quantify if she’s really good as advertised.

“My preparation I’d say is good. I’m obviously trying my best to place the highest for Team Philippines,” said the 22-year-old transferee from the Canadian national squad.

Sanchez, born to Filipino parents Noel and Susan who migrated to Toronto, Canada, has the solid credentials to back them up.

She helped Team Canada nail a silver medal in the 4x100m freestyle and a bronze in the 4x100m medley during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics before deciding to switch back to the motherland of her parents.

Sanchez will present the main dish for the entire continent to witness come Tuesday in the individual heats of the women’s 100m freestyle before diving back into the pool on Wednesday for the 100m backstroke and Thursday for the 50m free.

“Hopefully, pretty good,” said Sanchez of her chances to bring the country back to the podium of the Asian Games. “This is my first Asian Games, so I’m letting my experience guide me through.”

Preceding the women’s relay on the same day are Jarod Hatch and Jerard Jacinto, who are lined up in the qualifying heats of the men’s 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke, both aspiring to advance to the evening finals.

Apart from erasing their personal bests, the national swimmers are vying to meet the clockings necessary for them to earn a berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

On a roll even after the Tokyo Olympics, Sanchez played a pivotal role in the three gold medals and a silver that the Canadians won in the 2021 FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi.

These feats made her the focal point of a Philippine campaign that last saw a medal during the 1998 Asiad in Bangkok courtesy of Ryan Papa’s bronze finish in the men’s 100m and 200m backstroke.

William Wilson’s triumph in the men’s 200m freestyle in 1982 New Delhi, India was the last swimming gold medal the country had in these Games. At that time, Wilson also fished a silver in the 400m free.

Sanchez can boast of the clockings capable of ending the wait of more than four decades.

She owns a personal best of 53.12 seconds in the 100m free is faster than previous Asian Games gold medalist Rikako Ikee of Japan (53.27) while she’s just a blink slower than Ikee’s Asian Games gold record of 24.53 seconds in the 50m free with her 24.68 clocking.

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In the 100m backstroke, Sanchez’s 59.78 is faster than Asian Games bronze medalist Chen Jie of China (1:00.28).

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