Uncharacteristic slip leads to Caloy Yulo defeat at gymnastics worlds

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Oct 24 2021 12:48 AM

Yulo competes in the floor event via Philip Fong, AFP
Yulo competes in the floor event at the men's apparatus finals during the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the Kitakyushu City Gymnasium in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture on October 23, 2021. Philip Fong, AFP

Carlos Edriel Yulo looked invincible in topping the men’s floor exercise qualifiers in the 50th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships last Thursday that the rest of his rivals were expected to place second fiddle on the way to handily retaining his crown in the finals on Saturday.

Instead, Yulo uncharacteristically stumbled at the Kitakyushu City Gymnasium in Japan, winding up with his worst performance in his favorite event and in the meet to place fifth and out of a podium finish with a low score of 14.566 points.

Performing third among the 8 finalists, the pint-sized Filipino was caught off-balance at the end of his fourth pass near the fringe of the mat after a difficult twirling maneuver, valiantly steadying himself in time but not enough so that both his feet went out of bounds.

In a sport where minute percentages spell the difference between a win and defeat, the erstwhile defending champion was penalized .300 of a point for the mistake, forcing his shoulders to sag and lower his head as his score was flashed on the giant electronic scoreboard.

It was the first time Yulo suffered a penalty in his forte in the elite meet since making his maiden appearance at the worlds in the 2018 edition in Doha, Qatar where he scored 14.600 points to bring home a bronze medal.

Even more heartbreaking was that without the deduction, the diminutive dynamo could have retained his title with a tally of 14.866 points, which would have been better than the score of newly crowned Italian floor exercise champion Nicola Bartolini, who scored a penalty-free 14.800 points.

The Italian’s score was inferior to the 15.300 Yulo attained in clinching the floor exercise gold at the worlds staged in Stuttgart, Germany 2 years ago. 

Bartolini, who performed first, waited on pins and needles until the rest of the field was over before emerging as the first Italian to clinch a gold medal not only in the floor exercise but also his country’s first mint at the prestigious competition. 

Hometown bet Minami Kazuki settled for silver (14.766) while Finland’s Emil Soravuo bronze (14.700).

Yulo’s outing was reminiscent of his showing in the men’s floor exercise at the Tokyo Olympic Games where he failed to reach the finals after finishing 44th overall in the qualifiers at Ariake Sports Centre.

It was later learned that he had suffered a hip injury shortly before the Olympics that hampered his performance in the Japanese capital some months ago. 

But the Filipino bet may find it hard to come up with an excuse this time since he seemed to be in pretty fine shape in scoring 15.166 points last Thursday to pace the eight finalists.

Even gymnastics chief Cynthia Carrion was stunned by Yulo’s unexpected outcome and could only say “bawi tomorrow,” referring to the gymnast’s last two events on Sunday — the vault and parallel bars, respectively, starting at 4:25 p.m. (3:25 p.m. in Manila). 

It will now be up to Yulo to prove if he can rise up to the pressure-packed occasion and gain redemption.

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