ULTRA-TALENTED gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo dominated the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019, emerging as the country’s most bemedalled athlete with two gold and five silver medals in his homecoming and Games debut at the heritage-rich Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
Fast forward three years later and Yulo looks to set even bigger milestones in the regional sportsfest in the 31st Vietnam edition, whose gymnastics competitions unwrap on May 13 at the Quan Ngua Sports Palace in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, according to gymnastics head Cynthia Carrion.
“I am counting on Caloy (Yulo’s nickname) winning four gold, but coach Mune (Munehiro Kugimiya, the Japanese coach of the national men’s artistic gymnastic team) said he could possibly win more,” disclosed the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president.
For the record, the diminutive gymnastics phenom bagged the men’s all-around and floor exercise golds plus the silver medals in the parallel bars, vault, pommel horse, rings and vault in the Philippine Games three years ago.
The Tokyo-based Yulo has proven he ranks among the elite in his field in garnering a historic gold medal in the men’s floor exercise during the 2019 39th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
Following a dismal Tokyo Olympic Games outing where he was eliminated in his favorite floor exercise event, he redeemed himself in the 40th world championships held in Kitakyushu, Japan a gold in the men’s vault and silver in the parallel bars last October 2021.
He will spearhead the Philippine artistic gymnastics squad composed of six men and six women entries.
Aside from Yulo, the other men’s artistic gymnasts are Jan Gwynn Timbang, Juancho Miguel Bysana, John Ivan Cruz and Justine Ace de Leon while the distaff side is made up of Aleah Finnegan, Chiara Andrew, Ancilla Lucia Mari Manzano, Lucia Gabriel Gutierrez, Kursten Rogue Lopez and Ma. Cristina Onofre-Loberanes.
Also on the team is youthful cancer survivor Daniela dela Pisa, who ruled the hoops event in the 2019 SEAG women’s rhythmic gymnastics competitions where she will face stiff competition from compatriot Breanna Labadan, according to Carrion.
Unlike three years ago when there were four golds for each apparatus, she revealed that there would only one at stake in Vietnam since only the overall score for the hoops, rings, ball and ribbons will be tallied to determine the all-around champion.
Aside from Dela Pisa and Labadan, the other members of the rhythmic gymnastics squad are Shieldannah Sabio, Katrina Loretizo, Andrea Mae Emperado, Divina Sembrano, AJ Melgar, Jenny Marie Eusebio and Angelika Leigh Buenavidez.
As a former aerobics instructor, Carrion was optimistic that the PH aerobics squad could achieve a golden breakthrough after it could only deliver a bronze medal in the 2019 SEA Games from Charmaine Dolar in the women’s individual event.
GAP deputy secretary general Rowena Eusuya, who is national gymnastics delegation team manager, said the mixed trio of Cristopher Quevedo, Lynette Moreno and Grace Briones was very competitive and will be in the hunt for gold.
The other national aerobics team members are Carl Joshua Tangonan, Charmaine Dolar, Enrico Ostia and Dorothy Asuncion.
Banking on Yulo’s prolific production, the Filipino gymnastics bets wound up third overall among the six countries in the 30th SEA Games, garnering three golds, five silvers and four bronze medals.
The Filipinos flew in batches for Hanoi, starting with the the men’s and women’s artistic gymnastic sides on Tuesday, two days before the Vietnam SEA Games formally open Thursday at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi.
Yulo and Kugimiya will also fly in from Tokyo on the same day, Eusuya said.