Kayla Sanchez tempers hopes amid high expectations at Asian Games
HANGZHOU, China—Projected as a surefire multiple-medal prospect, Kayla Noelle Sanchez can soon end the long drought for Philippine swimming here in the 19th Asian Games (Asiad).
But the two-time Olympic medalist would rather not be consumed by the magnified expectations surrounding her and has kept a tempered outlook.
“My preparation I’d say is good. I’m excited to come here and compete. This is my first Asian Games, so I’m letting the experience guide me through. I’m just happy to be here with the team,” said Sanchez.
The 22-year-old ace from Toronto, Canada, will swim for the country for the first time after switching federations.
Sanchez helped Canada pick up two medals in the women’s relay—a silver in the 4×100 meter (m) freestyle and a bronze in the 4x100m medley—during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics before opting to represent her parents’ home country.
She will compete in the women’s 50-m and 100-m freestyle as well as in the 100m backstroke at the start of swimming competitions on Sunday, events where she could end the national swimming team’s medal drought in the Asiad.
“Hopefully, pretty good,” said Sanchez of her chances for a top podium finish. “I’m obviously trying my best to place the highest for Team Philippines.”
No Filipino tanker has gone onto the medal platform of the Asian Games since Ryan Papa’s pair of bronzes in the men’s 100m and 200m backstroke during the 1998 edition in Bangkok, Thailand.
The country’s last gold medal in the Asiad came from William Wilson in the men’s 200m freestyle in 1982 in New Delhi, India. Wilson also captured a silver in the 400m freestyle.
Sanchez, whose parents Noel and Susana hail from Mabalacat in Pampanga and Baguio City, has clockings capable of ending the wait of more than four decades.
Kayla’s personal best of 53.12 seconds in the 100m free is faster than previous Asian Games gold medalist Rikako Ikee of Japan (53.27).