Asian Games: Eala marches into semis, Sanchez hunts for old form
Alex Eala understands the quality of the competition in the 19th Asian Games (Asiad). Amid high-profile slipups among heralded bets, Eala provided a dose of much-needed positivity for Team Philippines on Wednesday—something she will also need to sustain her run in the women’s tennis competition when she guns for a semifinal outing at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Tennis Centre here in Hangzhou, China.
Because that match for a spot in the final is not going to be easy.
“The people here are really good, it’s high level and I don’t want to expect too much,” Eala said.
She needed to come from a set down to turn back Japan’s Kyoka Okamura, 0-6, 7-5, 6-0, to march into the semifinals of the singles event, where the 18-year-old battles No. 1 seed Zheng Qinwen.
Zheng, ranked 23rd in the world and a US Open quarterfinalist this year after beating Tunisian star Ons Jabeur in the Last 16, booted out 10th seed Sohyun Park of South Korea, 7-6 (4), 6-0, in the other quarterfinal duel.
For some of the more fancied Philippine bets, it was more than just the quality of competition that downed them.
Kayla Noelle Sanchez, the Olympic medalist regarded as the country’s swimming savior, is down to her last three events in her medal hunt after failing to make the final of the 100m women’s backstroke on Wednesday at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Aquatic Arena.
“This is my first international competition since my residency,’’ said Sanchez, after finishing third in her heat with a time of 1:01.94 behind Japan’s Miki Takahashi (1:01.29) and China’s Wan Letian (1:01.43).
Margielyn Didal, meanwhile, went from being the women’s street event defending champion in skateboarding to dead last among this year’s eight-strong finalists after failing to shake off the effects of a recent ankle surgery.
“It takes a lot of time to recover, so it’s not easy. I just have to deal with this,’’ said Didal in Filipino after collecting scores of 23.39 points and 12.84 and slipping thrice in both her routines in the trick sequence at Qiantang Roller Sports Centre.
Both athletes. however, continue to look at the bigger picture.
“I came in here to get back to the environment and atmosphere, so I’m slowly getting more comfortable and I’m really happy with my races so far,’’ said Sanchez, the former Team Canada standout who is competing for the Philippines for the first time since shifting allegiance to her parents’ home country.
“I’m still adjusting. I’ve been working really hard and It’s been a tough two months,’’ said Sanchez.
She still has the 50m freestyle and women’s 4x200m freestyle relay on Thursday and will wrap her maiden Asiad stint on Friday in the 4x100m medley relay.
For Didal, the focus is now on getting healthier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“There’s a qualifying event this December in Japan. After here (in the Asian Games), I have to do rehab and more training,’’ said Didal, who is ranked 40th in the world and is still inside the top 44 that will make it to Paris outright.