Two-time Olympic medalist Kayla Sanchez is looking to represent the Philippines on the international stage in the future, having been released by Swimming Canada following the conclusion of the 2022 World Championships.
Sanchez, who has been a member of the Canadian Senior National Team since 2017, was born in Singapore to Filipino parents, and felt a strong connection to her family history which ultimately led to this decision.
“I’ve always been really proud of my Filipino heritage,” Sanchez said, according to Swimming Canada. “Aside from how much I’ve grown and how good everything has been in Canada, I needed to make this really difficult decision for myself and my family to take this opportunity to represent the Philippines. I want to help inspire people that are like me to swim and get into the sport.”
The 21-year-old said she raised the possibility of changing nationalities with Swimming Canada earlier this year, and the organization obliged, granting her release as of the last day of the World Championships in Budapest, June 25.
“Kayla has been a great team member, centre member and swimmer for Canada and we will miss her,” said High Performance Director and National Coach John Atkinson.
“She brought such a positive energy to our teams, as well as great swimming. Our loss will be the Philippines’ gain, but we support her in this transition as it is the direction she wishes to follow for personal and family reasons. We sincerely wish her nothing but the best in her future swimming.”
Sanchez grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, and joined Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre following the conclusion of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, having won a silver medal at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships that summer.
She then represented Canada at three straight LC World Championships, along with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, winning two Olympic relay medals and six at Worlds.
Sanchez was also a member of three world title victories at the 2021 Short Course Worlds in Abu Dhabi on the Canadian relays.
At the 2022 World Championships, Sanchez placed sixth individually in the women’s 100 freestyle, and also finished 13th in the prelims of the 50 free before scratching the semis.
“I am so thankful and appreciative of Canada. I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today without the support and how much I grew and learned,” Sanchez said.
“It’s just a point in my life where it’s time for a change. I am stepping into a new point in my swim career where I can start to focus on myself and at the same time I’m hoping to help people in the Philippines.”
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Per FINA rules, Sanchez will have to reside in the Philippines for “the majority” of one year (six months) prior to representing them internationally.
She won’t be eligible to represent the Philippines until one year after her release from Swimming Canada, June 25, which would allow her to compete at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, which run July 14-30.
In moving on from repping Canada, Sanchez will forgo the opportunity of continuing to win relay medals at major championships, but could be in line for a financial upgrade in switching allegiances to the Philippines.
As of 2021, the Philippines was offering the USD equivalent of $200,000 for an Olympic gold medal (₱10,000,000), $100,000 for an Olympic silver medal, and $40,000 for an Olympic bronze medal. Canada’s incentive for a gold medal last year was roughly $16,000 USD ($20,000 CAD).
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is also handing out scholarships to nine of the Philippines’ best athletes in the lead-up to the Paris 2024 Olympics, each receiving ₱43,000 per month ($768 USD).
Sanchez will now not compete with the Canadian team at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, meaning three-quarters of their silver-medal-winning women’s 400 free relay will be absent. Penny Oleksiak withdrew from the competition prior to the World Championships, and Taylor Ruck took her name out of the mix prior to the original team being named.
At the 2022 World Championships, three swimmers, Jonathan Cook, Jasmine Alkhaldi and Miranda Renner, represented the Philippines in pool swimming, with Alkhaldi’s 21st-place finish in the women’s 100 butterfly the nation’s highest finish.