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Tokyo medalist Sanchez wants to represent PHL in Paris Games

OLYMPIC swimmer Kayla Sanchez — HANDOUT PHOTO

PHILIPPINE sports have a sad, heartbreaking fate of some of its national athletes searching for greener pasture to represent other countries like chess player Wesley So and, most recently, golfer Yuka Saso.

So when a Canadian tanker with full Filipino lineage who snared silver and bronze medals in last year’s Tokyo Olympics decided to leave Toronto and represent the Motherland, the country should celebrate.

Meet Kayla Sanchez.

“It was a difficult decision, but in the end, I’m proud to be Filipino,” said Ms. Sanchez in on Thursday briefer at the PhilSports Complex that was attended by Philippine Swimming, Inc. (PSI) president Lani Velasco.

“If I’m able to inspire young kids and Filipinos in general just to start swimming, it just means a lot to me,” she added.

Ms. Sanchez, who was part of the Canadian team that copped the 4×100-meter freestyle relay silver and 4x100m medley relay bronze in the Tokyo Games, however, would have to fulfill numerous requirements including the minimum 12-month residency and approval from the International Swimming Federation or FINA for her to officially don the national colors.

So if she could surpass all the hurdles, the most Ms. Sanchez could represent the country is in July next year, in time for the 2024 Paris Games where she hopes to deliver the country’s first swimming medal since legendary Teofilo Yldefonso captured a 200m breaststroke bronze in Los Angeles 90 years ago.

“While PSI has always been intent on developing grassroots talent, PSI welcomes with open arms any Filipino based overseas who wishes to represent the Philippines as this is their right,” said Ms. Velasco, who relentlessly pursued Ms. Sanchez to transfer since 2017.

“Pride for country is not exclusive to those who remain in the Philippines. In fact, we celebrate each and every Filipino all over the world who raises our flag and brings honor to our country,” she added.

Ms. Velasco also had Swimming Canada and Ms. Sanchez’s parents Noel and Susana, who trace their roots from Mabalacat, Pampanga and Bicol, respectively, to thank for.

“Our gratitude goes to Swimming Canada, first of all, for being able to develop Kayla into the successful swimmer that she is today. The environment and resources made available to Kayla in Canada all these years certainly played an important role in making her who she is. More importantly, we thank Swimming Canada for agreeing to Kayla’s request for her to transfer to the Philippines,” said Ms. Velasco.

“Thank you to Kayla’s father Noel and mother Susana. The whole nation sends its thanks.” — Joey Villar

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