Three qualifying events, 3 finals with 2 national records to boot.
Not a bad day’s work for Carlos Edriel Yulo, who batted 100 percent in qualifying in 3 events while turning the Kitakyushu City Gymnasium in Japan into his virtual playground to open his campaign in the 40th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in impressive fashion Wednesday night.
Relying on his core strengths, Yulo picked his events well, topping the men’s floor exercise and parallel bars qualifiers and placing third in the vault qualifying competition.
In a tournament that was delayed by 2 hours in the afternoon as organizers sanitized the area after a Colombian athlete tested positive for COVID-19, according to gymnastics chief Cynthia Carrion, Yulo was in a class of his own in his pet event and more so in the parallel bars.
Capping his last event of the day, the diminutive dynamo opened his title-retention bid in scoring 15.166 points, dislodging erstwhile Japanese frontrunner Minami Kazuki (14.946) to second place while Kazakh Karimi Milad slipped to third (14.191).
It was a huge bounce-back performance for the reigning world floor exercise champion, who could only muster 13.566 points in the last Tokyo Olympics as a hip injury just shortly before the meet took its toll and eliminated him early in his forte.
Vying in the second-to-last subdivision, he was even more outstanding with a score of 15.566 points in emerging on top of the heap in the parallel bars, breaking his old PH mark of 14.333 points in the all-around qualifiers of the 2019 edition staged in Stuttgart, Germany.
Yulo surged past China’s Zhang Boheng (15.300) and Hu Xuwei (15.233), who were relegated to second and third place, respectively.
The 2019 Southeast Asian Games double gold medalist also finished third overall in the parallel bars, scoring 14.808 points to eclipse his own national mark of 14.716 points in finishing fourth place in the event at the Tokyo Summer Games.
He was within striking distance of Ukrainian teener Chepurnyi Nazar and South Korean veteran Yang Hak-Seon, the 2012 London Olympic men’s vault champion, who had identical scores of 14.833, with the former securing top spot with a harder routine.
“Caloy (Yulo’s nickname) was so good here that he committed virtually no mistakes. His legs were perfectly straight (on the dismounts),” said Carrion, who shared clips of Yulo’s 3 qualifying events.
“The delay in the competition might have been good for Caloy because he was more relaxed in his performance as most of the crowd had left already,” she noted of the prized gymnast, who declared that he was on a mission of redemption following his dismal Olympic debut some months ago.
With the top 8 qualifiers of each apparatus entering the finals, Yulo ensured that he will be around until the end of the tournament on Sunday, with the floor exercise finals scheduled on Saturday and the vault and parallel bars medal play the succeeding day.
Unlike in the Stuttgart competition 2 years ago, Carrion said Yulo and Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya trained their sights only on the floor exercise, the vault and parallel bars while skipping the rings, horizontal bar and pommel horse.
“This was done so that he (Yulo) won’t get tired of his 3 main apparatus. He has no chances in the rings, pommel horse and high (horizontal) bar so why perform them when he is not fighting for the all-around anyway,” she said.
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