Tokyo Olympic medallist Kayla Sanchez will no longer represent Canada in international competition and will seek to compete for the Philippines, Swimming Canada said on Thursday.
The 21-year-old won silver in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay and bronze in the 4×100 metres medley relay at the Summer Games and picked up silver in both events at the world championships in Budapest this year.
Born in Singapore to Filipino parents, Sanchez lived in Canada from age two.
“I’ve always been really proud of my Filipino heritage,” she said in a Swimming Canada statement.
“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.”
Several high-profile athletes have decided to change the flags under which they compete, including American-born freestyle skiier Elieen Gu, who began representing China at age 15 and has since won two Olympic gold medals.
“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,” said Canadian high performance director and national coach John Atkinson.
—Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond