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KAYLA Sanchez is set to make her debut for Team Philippines in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF KAYLA SANCHEZ/FB

The major roadblock for Kayla Sanchez’s stint for the Philippines in major international tournaments had been removed.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said Sanchez will now be able to compete for the Filipinos after World Aquatics formally approved her change of nationality.

“The World Aquatics has approved the request for the sport nationality’s change of the Athlete (Sanchez), born on 7 April 2001, in the Aquatics sports of Swimming, from Canada to the Philippines,” World Aquatics Legal Counsel Loic Loutan said in a letter dated 4 July and transmitted to the POC on Thursday.

“Therefore, the Athlete is entitled to represent Philippines in international competitions from 6 July 2023 onwards.”

The 22-year-old Sanchez could spark the golden age of Philippine swimming.

Born in Singapore to Filipino parents, Noel and Susana, who immigrated to Canada, Sanchez is a distinguished freestyle swimmer who has a personal best of 53.12 in the women’s 100-meter event and one minute and 57.23 seconds in women’s 200-meter event.

She started campaigning internationally in 2017 and was part of the Canadian squad that won the silver medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay as well as a bronze medal in the women’s 4×100-meter medley relay in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The Philippine Swimming, Inc. has been talking to her since 2017 until she finally made a decision of joining the Philippines following her Olympic stint.

In a previous statement, Sanchez said swimming for Philippines is like coming home.

“Family is important to me. To be able to make this decision for my family and myself and for my culture here, it means the world to me. It puts so much more meaning in what I do and I’m super lucky to have that opportunity,” Sanchez said.

“I definitely had the full support (from Swimming Canada).”

Former Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lailani Velasco wishes Sanchez well in her endeavor with the national team.

“Good luck, Kayla. I have no doubt that you will make the country proud,” said Velasco, who was instrumental in convincing Sanchez to come home.

“I want to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity you have given me and our team of volunteer coaches to be part of your incredible journey. Thank you for your trust and patience.”

The POC, through Tolentino, fervently pursued Sanchez’s change of nationality for the past year, which included her completing a year-long residency requirement.

“Finally, the good news,” Tolentino said.

“The country now has a very strong anchor in its national swimming team.”

Sanchez will officially start swimming for the Philippines in the Hangzhou 19th Asian Games set from 23 September to 8 October. She, however, won’t be competing in the world aquatics championships that starts 14 July in Fukuoka, Japan upon the advice of her coach.

“Thank you so much for helping me get the approval from World Aquatics,” Sanchez earlier told Tolentino.

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