SEA Games: In Hanoi victory, Yulo credits gymnastics teammates over self

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at May 14 2022 08:20 AM

Carlos Edriel Yulo poses with his medals on the podium after winning the individual all-around competition and taking the second place in the team competition in artistic gymnastics at the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 13, 2022. Luong Thai Linh, EPA-EFE
Carlos Edriel Yulo poses with his medals on the podium after winning the individual all-around competition and taking the second place in the team competition in artistic gymnastics at the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 13, 2022. Luong Thai Linh, EPA-EFE

FILIPINO sports have been accustomed to seeing two-time world men’s gymnastics champion Carlos Edriel on the podium prominently in international competition that it would be a shock to them if he didn’t.

As expected, Yulo lived up to his lofty billing as the top favorite in the men’s all-around title Friday, bucking his slip in the men’s pommel horse with strong performances in the rest of the five apparatus to earn the best score of 85.150 points at the Quần Ngựa Sports Palace in Hanoi.

But what was gratifying for the diminutive dynamo, who grew up in the humble surroundings of Leveriza, Manila right behind the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, was that he was finally not alone in securing glory for the country.

Yulo teamed up with Juancho Miguel Besana, John Matthew Vergara, Justine de Leon, Jan Gwynn Timbang and John Ivan Cruz in tallying 301.600 points in securing the men’s team silver to break a 17-year-old medal drought in the event.

They even surpassed the achievement of the Pinoy gymnasts who bagged a team bronze in the 2005 Philippine edition held at the historic Rizal Memorial Coliseum, the same arena where Yulo dominated with 2 gold and 5 silver medals in the country’s fourth hosting of regional meet in 2019.

“Masayang-masaya po ako sa kanila dahil natupad din yong matagal na pangarap nilang manalo ng medalya. Lahat ng pagod nila nagbunga (I am very happy for my teammates since they achieved their long dream of winning a medal. Their hard work paid off),” said Yulo.

“Masarap talaga ang pakiramdam na manalo. Matagal ko na itong inaasam (Winning is a great feeling. I have waited for this for a long time),” sajd Timbang, 25, who practically started his national team stint with Yulo.

“Eto na yong matagal ko nang hinihintay na wala ako nun. Kaya masaya ako para sa kanilang lahat (This is something that I did not have when I was competing. So I am happy for all of them),” remarked Reyland Capellan, a back-to-back men’s floor exercise champion in the 2015 Singapore and 2017 Malaysia SEA Games, who is now a member of the national coaching staff.

But Yulo and company, who began their competition early in the morning, had to anxiously wait several hours to find out whether their respective scores would stand since host Vietnam competed in the afternoon after witnessing what the Filipino phenom and his teammates had done.

In the end, Vietnamese Le Thanh Tung, a bronze medalist in the 2019 SEA Games, could only wind up as the bridesmaid to the illustrious Yulo in snaring the silver medal with an overall tally of 84.050 points.

Compatriot Din Phuong Tanh, who was second to Yulo in Manila three years ago, took the bronze in scoring 82.450 points in the individual all-around contest involving six apparatus: floor exercise, vault, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings and horizontal bar.

National team manager Rowena Eusuya said what added to the tension to the competition was that the judges did the scores manually with pencil and paper, unlike other international meets when computerized scoring has become the norm.

“The scoring was slow and done manually, which added to our anxiety. We were like witnessing a barrio competition,” Eusuya revealed of the laborious scoring method that prolonged the tournament and kept the participating squads on pins and needles.

 She was grateful that gymnastics chief Cynthia Carrion, a member of the International Gymnastics Federation council and Asian Gymnastics Union executive committee member, was around to keep a sharp watch at the scoring and keep the judges on their toes.

The Tokyo-based Yulo, who won a gold medal in the men’s vault and silver in the parallel bars in the 40th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan last November, will have a break Saturday before returning on Sunday for the start of individual apparatus competition.

On the other hand, making her Philippine debut is highly-touted US national team member Aleah Finnegan, who will compete in the women’s artistic gymnastics all-around event Saturday.

Based on personal bests in the floor exercise, vault, uneven bars and balance beam apparatuses, the St. Louis, Missouri-born Finnegan, a Louisiana State University mainstay, is tipped to add the second gymnastics mint for the Philippines in the Vietnam Games.