Asian Games: Kayla Sanchez makes promising PH debut in women’s relay final
HANGZHOU, China—Kayla Sanchez showed up at the relay finals on Sunday evening, energizing the Philippine swim team that wound up fifth in the women’s 4x100m freestyle at the 19th Asian Games.
Sanchez, the Olympic medalist from Canada who opted to suit up for the nation’s tri-colors, sprang out in full throttle as the quartet also powered by Xiandi Chua, Teia Salvino and Jasmine Alkhaldi got off to an auspicious start.
Speeding at third off the blocks, the Filipinos eventually slowed down going into the halfway mark and allowed Hong Kong and Singapore to slip past.
“My first swim, it was a lot of fun seeing all the girls swim. It was really emotional for me because I’ve been through this process and to have Filipino girls by my side this time is really special,” said Sanchez.
China’s Cheng Yujie, Li Bingjie, Wu Qingfeng and Yang Junxuan led from start to finish and were never really threatened for the gold medal, setting a new Games record with a time of three minutes and 33.96 seconds.
Japan placed second, nearly five seconds behind the host country in 3:38.48, and Hong Kong checked in at third (3:39.10)
Singapore arrived fourth (3:44.16) ahead of the two-time Olympian Alkhaldi, who touched the wall for the Philippines in 3:44.31. The mark set a new national standard, erasing the 3:47.05 during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
“A lot of swimmers in the team, myself included, this is the first Asian Games that we are doing as a team and I think this is a good starting point,” said Sanchez.
The Philippines is aiming to break the long dry spell in continental swimming.
Filipino tankers 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 for silver in the 400m free.
Sanchez, who contributed to Canada’s silver and bronze medals in the relays of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, skipped the qualifying heats earlier and replaced Chloe Isleta in the medal race.
Debuting for the Philippines after switching federations, Sanchez owns a personal best of 53.12 seconds in the 100m free, an effort faster than previous Asian Games gold medalist Rikako Ikee of Japan (53.27).
She’s also entered in the women’s 50m and 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke, events where the 22-year-old from Toronto, Canada is favored to medal.
“I’m excited but nervous. I’m doing this for my country, family and fans, so I just have to keep looking at the bigger picture in the future,” said Sanchez.