Men's Floor champion Carlos Edriel Yulo during the medal ceremony. Photograph by Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters
Drive Sports and Fitness

What you need to know right now about Olympics-bound teen gymnast Carlos Yulo

The teen gymnast prodigy is the talk of the country after making history at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart. Here are 16 facts about our latest Olympian who is making us very excited for 2020.
Jacs T. Sampayan | Oct 15 2019

Before starting his history-making routine, Carlos Yulo closed his eyes for a few seconds and tried to calm himself down. Then, the four-foot-nine 19-year-old stepped forward and launched quickly into his first tumbling pass, firmly holding on to his footing at the end. A little over a minute later, to a spattering of applause inside the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart, Germany, he finished off with another pass, sticks the landing, and pumps both fists in celebration.

While confessing to not expecting the triumph, Carlos—who got people buzzing at the same event last year—knew he did well. After giving his Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya a hug, he sat down beside his Israeli opponent Artem Dolgopyat and awaited his fate. A few moments later, he learned he had edged him out for the lead and the crown—the first Filipino to do so at the prestigious world competition.

Carlos Yulo became the first Filipino to win a gold medal at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

You may also like:

The video of this whole exchange has been circulating in social media since the weekend, with many getting major goosebumps over seeing the teenager’s gutsy routine and the subsequent awarding ceremony. It doesn’t take deep gymnastics know-how to recognize that what Carlos has achieved was phenomenal, and a story that Philippine sports can build on. He wishes more Filipinos would be inspired enough by his win to give gymnastics a try. 

Here are 16 things to know about our young, history-making athlete:

1. Born to a family of athletes 

Born in Manila on February 16, 2000, Carlos Edriel Yulo is the eldest son of Mark Andrew and Angelica Yulo. He was raised in the busy corners of Leveriza, Pasay. He has three similarly athletic siblings: 11-year-old Karl Eldrew and 10-year-old Iza are both into gymnastics while his older sister, 21-year-old Joriel, is part of the champion pep squad of National University.

 

2. His dad was a street dancer 

His mother Angelica believes that Carlos got his talents from her husband, who used to be a street dancer and now works as a messenger. The couple says they could barely contain their excitement over what Carlos, who they call Caloy, has achieved.

 

3. It was Lolo who saw the potential

When Carlos was seven, he, Joriel, and his grandfather Rodrigo Frisco were at the Paraiso ng Batang Maynila when they spotted a gymnast doing a routine. The two kids mimicked the young athlete, and their lolo saw their potential. He brought the two to the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines.

 

4. It started at the Rizal Memorial 

He and his sister became part of a free training program provided by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), under Ricardo Ortero. At the historic Rizal Memorial Complex, just a couple of blocks away from the public park they started tumbling at, Carlos would begin his gymnastics journey.

By reaching the finals of the All Around, Yulo qualified for next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo. Photograph by Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters

 

5. The first defeat

Yulo attended Doña Aurora Quezon Elementary School, followed by Adamson University for his secondary education—all the while training with the NCR gymnastics team in preparation for the Philippine National Games. In the first competition he joined, the Palarong Pambansa, the national tournament for students in the country, Yulo was unable to clinch a medal. 

 

6. The first gold 

The following year, the prodigy won a gold medal, quickly establishing himself as an athlete to watch. He won four gold medals at the 2011 Palarong Pambansa and one gold medal at the 2011 Philippine National Games. Not even 20 years old, Carlos now has over 400 medals.

 

7. The Japanese connection 

Kugimiya met Carlos when the coach was sent here by the Japan Gymnastic Association to help train the Philippine team. Known for producing world champions, the coach saw the boy’s potential. Mark and Angelica allowed their son to leave for Tokyo three years ago to train under him with the supervision of the PSC.

 

8. Studying in Japan

The gymnast enrolled in Teikyo University to pursue a literature degree, an undertaking that helped him become fluent in Japanese. His mother Angelica says her son got attractive offers from American schools—but he turned them all down because of his loyalty to Japan and his Japanese coach.

 

9. The great motivation

Kugimiya—who Carlos calls Mune and considers as his second dad—is an assistant professor at the university the young athlete is studying in. The Filipino admits that his training is quite challenging, but he soldiers on because he wanted to reach the heights that his idol, 21-time world champion Kohei Uchimura, has reached.

Yulo now sets his sights on the Southeast Asian Games where he comes in as a heavy favorite. Photograph from ABS-CBN News

 

10. Overcoming physical difficulties 

Two years ago, he competed at the 14th Junior Asian Championships in Thailand and won gold in the parallel bars despite sustaining a sprained ankle in training. Last year, he started competing in the senior competitions, winning medals in almost every tournament he joined, from Melbourne to Baku to Cottbus.

 

11. Disappointing turnout 

He was met with disappointment at last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta. Coming in as the heavy favorite especially after topping the qualification round with a score of 14.500 in Men’s Floor, he ended seventh in the finals, crashing out with a 13.500. He finished fourth place in Vault, .250 behind Indonesian Agus Adi Prayoko.

 

12. Making history in Doha 

In his next competition after his failed bid at the Asiad, the 2018 Word Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Carlos made history. He became the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to win a medal at the prestigious event, bagging a bronze in Men’s Floor. He finished behind Artur Dalaloyan of Russia and Kenzo Shirai of Japan.

 

13. More gold 

This was followed by gold medals at the World Cup Series in Melbourne and the All Japan Senior Championships. He also got a bronze medal at the World Cup Series in Doha. He was coming into this year’s World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart with a lot of momentum.

 

14. A slot at the Olympics 2020

After advancing to the finals of the men’s All Around in Stuttgart, Carlos, the youngest person in the event’s finals, clinched a spot to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. He is the second Filipino to do so; a month ago, pole vaulter EJ Obiena did the same in a tournament in Chiara, Italy. Carlos eventually ended up in 10th place in the All Around.

 

15. Taking a risk in Stuttgart

In the Men’s Floor Finals, Carlos walked away with the title with a score of 15.300, barely edging out Israel’s Artem Dolgopyat (15.200) and China’s Xiao Ruoteng (14.933). His mother says they didn’t expect the result as her son hasn’t posted a score beyond 14.800 before. In Stuttgart, however, he went with a different, more technically difficult routine, and the risk paid off.

 

16. Coming home 

Carlos is set to return to the Philippines today, a packed trip that includes a visit with President Rodrigo Duterte. The 4-foot-9 dynamo is setting his sights next on the Southeast Asian Games, which the Philippines will host next month. The planned venue for Yulo’s sport will be at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.