Gymnastics: Olympian Yulo breaks 8-month hiatus to join Japan tilt in September

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Aug 16 2020 08:18 AM

After an 8-month layoff, world gymnastics champion and Olympic-bound Carlos Edriel Yulo will return to the scene of one of his memorable triumphs when he springs back into action at the All-Japan Senior Gymnastics Championships scheduled September 20 to 22 in the city of Takasaki, Japan.

“This will be Caloy’s (Yulo’s nickname) first competition since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Japan,” said Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, who has been handling Yulo and the national men’s artistic gymnastics squad since 2015.

The competition is expected to feature Japan’s elite gymnasts at the 6,000-seat Takasaki Arena, which was supposed to be one of the training venues for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, located 125.8 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. 

This is the same tournament last year where Yulo shared the gold with two-time Olympic men’s all-around champion and Japanese gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura after they scored identical 14.80 scores in the floor exercise. 

It will mark the first time that the gymnast, a protégé of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines since he was 8 years old, will be returning to competition since stamping his class in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December. 

Performing before a packed hometown crowd at the heritage-rich Rizal Memorial Coliseum, Yulo, 20, romped off with two gold and five silver medals in a grand SEA Games debut, emerging as the country’s most bemedalled athlete in the 11-nation regional sportsfest.

He was the country’s second Olympic qualifier after pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, following a successful campaign last October 2019 at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, capped by winning a historic gold medal in the men’s floor exercise event.

Kugimiya, who is based in Tokyo with Yulo, said that he would not push his prized ward too hard.

“It is important that Caloy is able to compete without suffering injury in any of the events. Long time no competition kasi (He has not competed for a long time),” noted Kugimiya, who is able to understand and speak some Filipino words given his long stay in the Philippines.

But Kugimiya said he plans to introduce some new routines for the athlete to execute, particularly in his pet event, the floor exercise, adding that they still have yet to decide which apparatus the gymnast will take part in besides his forte.

“We might try out the double layout salto with a double twist in the floor exercise,” Kugimiya bared. 

The coach said that Yulo currently trainis four to five hours a day, six times a week at the Asahi Seimei Gymnastics Club while studying as a freshman at the Teikyo University where he is taking up Humanities.

“Most of Caloy’s classes are now done online so he has more than enough time for training,” Kugimiya said. 

Yulo recently received an additional P3.2 million in financial assistance for his Olympic preparations from the Philippine Sports Commission after it was approved by the five-man PSC board led by chairman William Ramirez last Aug. 7. 

The total allotment of P3,203,839.60 consists of P1,173,900 for living expenses, P1,875,394 for training expenses and P154,545.40 for miscellaneous items.

This is on top of the P3 million that was earlier approved by the government sports agency for the gymnast, according to acting PSC executive director Guillermo Iroy. Jr. 

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).