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Kayla aims for Paris spot in Doha world championships

Kayla Sanchez is less than a second away from the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The ace swimmer hopes to cover that gap when she competes in the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar from Feb. 2 to Feb. 18 where the double Olympic medalist could meet the qualifying standard in the 100-meter and 50m freestyle events.

“Kayla is just three-tenths of a second away from the qualification standard in these events. That’s how close she is to earning a spot in Paris,’’ said Philippine Aquatics secretary general Eric Buhain.

The International Olympic Committee recently waived the three-year residency required of athletes switching nationalities, setting Sanchez up for her first Olympic stint in a Philippines kit in the French capital.

Born to Filipino parents Susana from Baguio City and Noel from Mabalacat, Pampanga, Sanchez came under the radar of the Philippine swim officials when she helped Team Canada claim a silver medal in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay and a bronze in the 4x100m medley relay in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

She delivered a combined 12 relay medals from the world championships and the Olympics for Team Canada.

Sanchez got her first crack at wearing a Philippine team swimsuit in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, where she nearly reached the podium in two individual events.

Out of four individual events, she broke the Philippine records and qualified in the finale of the 50m backstroke and 100m freestyle, the first time Sanchez saw competitive action since her residency for the country began in July 2022.

“We are actually sending seven swimmers to Doha (for the worlds). Aside from Kayla, we also have Xiandi Chua who is likewise a second away from making it to Paris in the 200m backstroke,’’ said Buhain.

Universality rule

Once Sanchez and Chua book those Paris slots, the national swim team is still entitled to send one more male swimmer based on the universality rule.

All countries in the Olympics are allowed to enlist one male and one female competitor in swimming and athletics through universality quota places if a nation can’t send an athlete in these sports through normal qualification channels.

According to Buhain, they’re looking at Southeast Asian Games medalists Jarod Hatch or Jerald Jacinto to fill the male spot for the team in Paris.

“Hopefully both Kayla and Xiandi would make the cut for Paris. We can possibly have three depending on the races of Jarod and Jerald,’’ said Buhain, a swimming star in the 90s.