A top 6 finish in the difficult men’s all-around event and possibly a gold each in floor exercise, vault and parallel bars will be what Carlos Edriel Yulo will be gunning for in the 41st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships opening on October 29 at M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England.
“Gusto ko po maka-top 6 sa all-around tapos tatlong gold na sinalihan ko po sa mga nakaraang world championships na naging maganda ang aking laro. (I want to be in the top 6 all-around and three golds in the other events I did well of the world championships),” Yulo said Monday night in an online press conference at the close of his five-day training camp at the INSEP training center on the outskirts of Paris, France.
The three individual events he was referring to were the floor exercise, vault and parallel bars, events he has been quite successful in the editions of the world meet held in Stuttgart, Germany and Kitakyushu, Japan in 2019 and 2021, respectively.
Yulo achieved a historic first gold for the country in the floor exercise at the ultra-modern Hanns Martin Schleyer Halle three years ago in the picturesque German city of Stuttgart where he also emerged as the country’s second Olympic qualifier after pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena.
While he missed retaining his floor exercise title in 2021 worlds, the pint-sized phenom bounced back strong in bagging a gold in the vault and silver in the parallel bars, as he saw action in only three individual events because of an elbow injury.
“Caloy (Yulo) is in very good shape now and has no more problems,” said Japanese Munehiro Kugimiya in the same online press briefing held at the French institute and training center for elite athletes located within the Bois de Vincennes public park on the eastern edge of the French capital.
Kugimiya said that his prized ward was in fighting shape and would see action in all six events, including the pommel horse, rings and horizontal bar.
“If I should get a score of around 86 points, I believe I can get into the top 6 of the men’s all-around in Liverpool,” noted Yulo, who look up to former world and Olympic all-around champion Kohei Ichimura as his role model. “If I can score at least 86.00 points there is a strong chance I can make it.”
China’s Zhang Boheng ruled the men’s all-around event at the last worlds with a score of 87.981 points, narrowly beating Daiki Hashimoto by a hairline as the hometown favorite and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist settled for silver (87.964). Ukraine’s Ilia Kovtun took the bronze medal (84.899).
Yulo said he was likewise keen on retaining the men’s vault crown and bared that he had added a new element to his routine - the “ri se gwang,” a front handspring double piked one-and-half twist, named after Rio Olympic Games men’s vault gold medalist Ri Se-gwang of North Korea.
“Nagagawa ko na siya sa praktis madalas. (I have done it consistently in practice) And if can do it consistently, I believe I have a strong chance of if winning the vault gold again,” said the country’s most bemedaled athlete in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games last May with five gold and two silver medals.
As for the floor exercise, Yulo was optimistic that he if could avoid the mistake that he did in the Kitakyushu edition – stumbling out of the mat and failing to qualify in the finals – redemption might be in sight in the birthplace of the famed British band the Beatles.
“In the floor exercise, if I can perform the way I do in practice without any mistake, I know I can win the gold again,” he noted.
He acknowledged that the opposition would be stiff in Liverpool, citing the fact that some of the world and Olympic champions last year would be back to compete in the blue-ribbon competition organized by the International Gymnastics Federation, the world gymnastics body known by its French acronym FIG.
Among them is Israeli Tokyo Olympic men’s floor exercise gold medalist Artem Dolgopyat, who, however, played second fiddle to the pint-sized Pinoy gymnastics phenom in Stuttgart in 2019.
The outstanding Filipino athlete said that most of the time the pressure he felt in competing in top competition was internal “so dun nagkakatalo sa mindset (the mindset is where the difference lies.)”
Both Yulo and Kugimiya, who visited the famous Eiffel Tower in the French capital last Sunday, said that the training camp had gone quite well, although the Tokyo-based gymnast said that he was still adjusting to his sleeping periods.
“Medyo hindi pa ako nakaka-adjust sa pagtulog. Nagigising pa po ako ng mga around 2 and 4 . sa umaga. (I still am adjusting to sleep. I still wake up at around 2 and 4 in the morning,” said the gymnast of his current location, which is seven hours ahead of Japan.
Yulo, Kugimiya, together with longtime physical therapist Junpei Kono, were scheduled to leave Tuesday for Liverpool, take a day’s break, before resuming training on Wednesday.
The men’s all-around qualifying competition will be held on October 31, with the top 24 finishers advancing to the men’s all-around finals on November 4, followed by the two-day apparatus finals on November 5 and 6, respectively.