With his performance at the 53rd All-Japan Seniors Gymnastics Championships last Tuesday, Carlos Edriel Yulo once again proved that indeed within him beats the heart of a champion.
Despite a subpar showing in his forte, the floor exercise, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics-bound Yulo refused to be discouraged, springing back solidly into action in securing a silver medal in the vault event with a score of 14.733 points at Takashi Arena in Gunma, Japan.
The diminutive Filipino athlete shared runner-up honors with 2016 Rio Olympic Games gold medalist and 3-time world floor exercise champion Kenzo Shirai behind Wataru Tanigawa, a bronze medalist at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany last October, who ruled the event with 14.900 points.
Yulo’s performance was better than the 14.600 points he garnered in placing 10th in the men’s all-around event at the 49th edition of the worlds held at the ultra-modern 15,000-seat Hans Martin Schleyer Halle in the scenic and quiet city located 681.7 kilometers southwest of the Berlin.
It was a worthy consolation prize for the Pinoy gymnast after capturing the gold medal in the same prestigious competition last year in the floor exercise, posting 14.80 points in a tie with another Japanese great, world and Olympic all-around champion Kohei Uchimura.
With Japanese national men’s squad coach Munehiro Kugimiya introducing some new elements to his routine, the country’s most bemedaled performer at the 30th Southeast Asian Games wobbled and fell to 19th place with a mediocre score of 13.966 points.
This was way below his gold-clinching performance of 15.300 points in Stuttgart, capping a historic display at the competition that earned him the country’s second ticket to the Tokyo Olympic Games after pole-vaulter Ernest John Obiena.
It was also inferior to the score of 14.600 points made by Yulo in bagging the floor exercise bronze medal of the 2018 edition of the world meet held in Doha, Qatar.
“We introduced two new elements in the floor exercise and he committed a mistake in one of them,” noted Kugimiya, who has been handling the national team since 2015, of Yulo’s lackluster stint in his pet event.
“Caloy (Yulo’s nickname) was challenged with the presence of Shirai in the vault event,” added the mentor of his prized pupil, who has been a protégé of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines under Cynthia Carrion since YULO was 8 years old.
Yulo placed 12th overall out of 91 entries in the 1-day meet in compiling 83.398 points over the six apparatuses, topped by Kazuma Kaya, a bronze medalist in the parallel bars in Stuttgart, with a tally of 86.998 points.
This was the athlete’s first international competition since making his dominant debut in the 30th SEA Games last December, bagging two gold and five silver medals in the regional sportfest in front of a sellout crowd at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
Kugimiya said that next up for Yulo would be a tournament also in Japan in December.