Tolentino promises full support staff for swimmer Kayla Sanchez
TAGAYTAY CITY—Toughened by major league races across the globe, Kayla Noelle Sanchez has a polished swim method that could thrust her into the limelight of the Olympics.
That natural flair on the pool can be enhanced even more by building a solid support cast around the seasoned Olympic medalist.
“We plan to surround her (Sanchez) with a team of experts, just like what we did for [Olympic gold medalist] Hidilyn Diaz [-Naranjo],’’ Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino told the entire Inquirer Sports staff during the group’s planning session here on Monday.
It proved to be a surefire formula for success as evidenced by the feat of Diaz-Naranjo, whose weightlifting gold in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics broke nearly a century of waiting for the country to pocket the ultimate prize at the biggest stage in global sports.
Sanchez got the attention of Philippine swim officials after helping Team Canada nail a silver medal in the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay and a bronze in the 4×100-m medley relay in the Tokyo Olympics.Born to Filipino parents Susana and Noel from Mabalacat, Pampanga, the 21-year-old Sanchez has agreed to shift allegiance to the Philippines and can kick off her stint with the national team in the Fina World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, in July after going through a 12-month residency in the country.
She cornered two silver medals in the women’s 4×100-m freestyle and mixed 4×100-m freestyle relays and a pair of bronzes in the 4×200-m free and 4×100-m medley relays for Canada during the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, early last year.
For the 2024 Paris Olympics, Sanchez should complete a three-year residency, but that could be shortened with the backing of World Aquatics, the International Olympic Committee and the POC.
“We will definitely extend all the help that she needs. Building a team around our athletes has been proven successful and that’s what we intend to do with Kayla,’’ said Tolentino.
The POC chief sat down with Philippine Sports Commission chair Richard Bachmann over the weekend and discussed the nation’s preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Sanchez will enjoy the same template of success being applied to Diaz-Naranjo and Europe-based world No. 3 pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena as the POC will assign a team composed of a nutritionist, sports psychologist and physiotherapist apart from her coaches.
“These experts will be dedicated exclusively to her, similar to what we have done for Hidilyn and EJ,’’ said Tolentino, noting that Japan-based gymnast Carlos Yulo will be accorded a similar treatment.
Sports psychologist Karen Trinidad is part of Team HD’s success in the Olympics as well as nutritionists Jeanette Aro and Diaz-Naranjo’s husband-head coach Julius Naranjo, who will be assisted by Roel Garcia, a member of the national men’s weightlifting team.
Helping out Obiena are Ukrainian head coach Vitaly Petrov, physiotherapist Francesco Viscusi, osteopath Antonio Guglietta, Carol and Jim Lafferty in nutrition and psychologist Sheryll Casuga.
Sanchez owns a personal best of 53.12 seconds in the 100-m freestyle, which she accomplished in the Tokyo Olympics, just a fraction of a second behind Australian Cate Campbell’s 52.52-second Olympic bronze medal feat.
That clocking is better than the existing Asian Games record of 53.27 set by Japanese Rikako Ikee in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and by far superior to the current Southeast Asian Games standard of 54.74 courtesy of Singapore Quah Ting Wen.