JAPANESE coach Munehiro Kugimiya had a “hidden agenda” for Carlos Edriel Yulo in the just-concluded 51st Artistic Gymnastics World Championships held at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England.
And while Yulo did not win a gold medal in the global showcase held in hometown of the popular British band the Beatles, Kugimiya said that the Filipino gymnastics sensation had met the coach’s goals that he had set for him.
“I did not tell Caloy (Yulo’s nickname) this beforehand, but he met my secret targets. He did well,” revealed the Japanese mentor at the early morning Monday (late Sunday night in England) online press briefing before he and the gymnast returned in the wee hours of the next day to Tokyo.
“This time he (Yulo) can challenge for the elements (in his gymnastics routines),” added Kugimiya of how he used the world meet as a sort of laboratory as the pint-sized dynamo tried out new things in his overall repertoire in all of the six apparatuses that he saw action in.
Among them was the ri se-gwang — a front handspring double pike one-and-a-half twist created by North Korean Rio Olympic Games men’s vault gold medalist Ri Se-gwang — that he executed on his first run and subsequently netted him a silver in the men’s vault event with a score of 14.950 points.
His average tally after scoring 14.900 on the second attempt was just one-tenth of a point short of the gold-medal score of 15.050 points of Armenian upstart Arthur Davtyan, who was also tops in the qualifier of the events.
“My first vault is not ready yet. It was a great challenge for me, and great preparation for next year. I’m really happy that I made it, even though it’s not gold in the end, it’s silver,” Yulo said at the post-competition interview.
“I am not disappointed by Caloy’s performance because he didn’t want to fall, he didn’t don’t want to commit a mistake but it happens,” stressed Kugimiya of his prized ward’s slip in the floor exercise where he was favored to win but wound up seventh among the eight finalists.
“Now we know what we have to do in training and how we can improve,” added the coach, who, together with Yulo, is bound to get back to the drawing board in the Japanese capital as both of them plot their path to qualify and compete Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
He underscored the fact that the Liverpool meet was a dress rehearsal for the next edition of the competition in Antwerp, Belgium a year from now, which will be an Olympic qualifier for the Olympics in the French capital.
“Next year 2023 is Olympic qualification (at the worlds) and we cannot make a make mistake for the Olympics. So next year will be about safety, consistency and good quality,” Kugimiya said, adding that he saw no need to overhaul the athlete’s training regimen in his drive to compete in the next Olympics.
Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion also was proud of the GAP protégé’s accomplishment in his fourth straight appearance in the world championships that also gained him a bronze medal in the parallel bars.
Carrion cited the valuable learning experience the gymnast drew in the competition in the build-up to the Paris Summer Games.
“What happened in Liverpool is all part of the overall plan for Caloy for the Olympics in 2024, and all the top gymnastics officials with whom I have talked to have informed me that the process is going very, very well,” the gymnastics chief said.
“We are doing everything moving forward and the aim is for Caloy to win medals, possibly gold, in the Paris Olympics,” she stressed.
Kugimiya said that will mean that Yulo will be compelled to skip the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games in China favor of the world championships, an Olympic qualifying event, in Belgium because of their overlapping schedules.
The Hangzhou Asiad is set from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8, 2023 while the 52nd edition of the world meet is scheduled Sept. 29 to Oct. 8 in Belgian’s largest city.
“The two important events for Caloy next year are the Asian gymnastics championships, which is a qualifying competition for the world championships, and the world championship, which is an Olympic qualifying event,” Kugimiya said. “No Asian Games in China.”
As part of the athlete’s intensive preparations for the worlds, Carrion said that the country’s most bemedalled athlete in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games will see action in four FIG World Cup series competitions from February to April 2023.
These are the opening leg in from Feb. 23 to 26 in Cottbus Germany, the next from March 1 to 4 in Doha, Qatar, the third in Baku, Azerbaijan from March 3 to 9 in Baku, Azerbaijan and the last from April 24 to 27 in Cairo, Egypt.
For his part, Yulo said that he planned to rest a day or two once they arrive in Tokyo but will be back at the salt mines as he and his club teammates vie in the 76th All-Japan Gymnastics Team Championship slated Dec. 10 to 11 at the Fukui Sun Dome located in the coastal city of Fukui, 509 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.