ANALYSIS: Recent Japan showing proves Filipino gymnast Caloy Yulo has moved on from Tokyo Olympics stint

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Sep 26 2021 05:52 AM

Caloy Yulo  Loic Venance, AFP/file
Caloy Yulo competes in the artistic gymnastics men's vault final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on August 2, 2021. Loic Venance, AFP/file

The hashtag said it all: #revengethetokyo

Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya posted it on Facebook with gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo’s scores of 15.30 and 15.00 points in ruling the men’s floor exercise and placing third in the vault, respectively, of the All-Japan Senior Gymnastics Championships in Sakata city, Japan last Thursday.


It was exactly 2 months to the day after the disappointing performance by Yulo, the reigning world floor exercise champion, in his pet event in the Tokyo Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.

Competing with a hip injury suffered during training two weeks before his Olympic debut, the Pinoy gymnast finished with a woeful 13.566 points in winding up 47th overall among 50 entries in the qualifiers on July 24, missing the cut of eight finalists in his fancied event.

Training in the Japanese capital since 2016, Yulo narrowly missed a podium finish on Aug. 2 in placing fourth in the men's vault with a score of 14.716 points due to a .10-point deduction on his first attempt when his right foot landed out of the landing area in the dismount.

So it seemed natural for Kugimiya, who has been the head coach of the national men’s artistic gymnastics team for 5 years, to use the hashtag in vindication of his prized ward’s forgettable Olympic debut.

Underscoring the fact he was no longer bothered by the hip injury was the fact that the gymnast tied his gold-medal clinching score of 15.30 points in the 49th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany 3 years ago. 

In fact, Yulo’s score at the worlds was even better than the 14.933 points of Tokyo Olympic men’s floor exercise champion Artem Dolgopyat of Israel. 

Dolgopyat snatched the gold from Russian Denis Ablyazin, who had the same score but settled for the silver due to the former’s slightly better degree of difficulty in his routine.

What might have been even more painful for Yulo to have seen was that he beat Dolgopyat for the country’s historic first world gymnastics gold in Stuttgart, the veteran Israeli gymnast taking silver with 15.20 points. 

New PH men’s vault record

The 2019 Southeast Asian Games double gold medalist also booked a new national record in the vault, surpassing his 14.716 points in the Tokyo Summer Games, and whose 15.30 score was higher than the 14.866 points of South Korean Olympic gold medalist Shin Jeah-hwan.

Cynthia Carrion, president of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines, the sport’s national governing body, noted that this initial showing of Yulo since the last Olympics “is a definite sign that he has moved forward” and is looking forward to defending his world floor exercise crown next month also in Japan.

With original host Copenhagen backing out, the 50th FIG Artistic World Gymnastics Championships will be held October 18 to 24 in Kitakyushu, 1,024.6 kilometers southwest of the Japanese capital.

Carrion bared that Yulo stuck to his original floor exercise routine, shunning the ambitious stunt — the triple back flip and the two forward twirls — that led to his hip injury and derailed his Olympic bid, in his first meet since the Tokyo Olympics. 

“Caloy (Yulo) did not do that stunt that caused his hip injury during training for the Olympics. He apparently has a phobia in executing it now because he was forced to skip a week of training that affected his performance in Tokyo,” she said. 

The gymnastics chief, however, said that the athlete, who has been a GAP protégé for over a decade, was determined to redeem himself in the picturesque city known for its historic Kokura castle and located in Fukuoka prefecture.

Carrion said Kugimiya texted her that the field could be tougher than the Tokyo Olympics, but that the Japanese mentor, who blamed himself for Yulo’s Olympic waterloo, was also just as keen in avoiding another letdown.

She shared the coach’s direct message, which, in the same broken English, expressed what he and Yulo are aiming to accomplish at the world meet.

“I think the world championships is harder than Olympics . . . But we are training harder for gold. I don’t want to lose anymore,” Kugimiya stressed.


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