STUTTGART. — Living up to expectations, Carlos Edriel Yulo came through with a picture-perfect performance on Saturday to clinch the men’s floor exercise title in thrilling fashion at the 41st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the Hans Schleyer Halle here.
Performing next to last among the eighth finalists, Yulo came up with an awe-inspiring display of grace, artistry and athleticism to secure the gold with an eye-popping score of 15.300 points as he became the first Filipino to win a world gymnastics title.
For the first time in the 41 editions of the global gymnastics showcase, the Philippine national anthem was played in the event that drew the best gymnasts from 92 countries to this picturesque German city.
Yulo, 19, who became the second Filipino athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics next year when he finished 18th overall out of 160 entries in the all-around qualifying last Monday, boosted the country’s hopes of winning its first Olympic gold, which had evaded the Philippines for decades.
(Pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena is the first Pinoy athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Nesthy Petecio emerged as the Philippines’ second world champion in less than 24 hours after she beat Liudmila Vorontsova of Russia in their featherweight bout in the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia.)
“I did not expect to win because I thought the Israeli’s score was far too high,” Yulo said.
“But I wanted to show everyone what I could do so I just wanted to do my best. Talagang napakasaya ko po (I’m really very happy).”
The shoulders of Israeli Artem Dolgopyat, the erstwhile frontrunner with a seemingly untouchable tally of 15.200 points until the Pinoy bet’s turn came up, sagged when Yulo’s score was flashed on the huge TV screen proclaiming who had won the event by a hairline.
Playing a major factor in the victory was the degree of difficulty of Yulo’s routine – the highest among the entries at 6.500 to Dolgopyat’s 6.400.
In a country marking its annual popular Oktoberfest, there was much to celebrate inside the 15,000-seat arena as the gallery of 14,000 roared in approval when the Filipino gymnast pumped his fist as his score flashed on the screen.
Also eclipsed by Yulo’s triumph was China’s Xiao Ruoteng, the men’s all-around silver medalist in last year’s World Championship in Doha, Qatar, who seemed to have clinched the silver with a score of 14.933, only to be relegated to the bronze in the face of the Filipino’s virtuoso performance.
Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, whose stern training of Yulo over six years has molded the once rough diamond into a world-beater, shed tears while watching his ward humble the giants of the sport.
Among them was newly-crowned Russian all-around champion Nikita Nagornyy, who could only muster 14.166 and wallowed in sixth place. Another Russian, defending floor exercise champion Artur Dalaloyan, managed a fourth place finish with 14.800 points.
“I am happy for Caloy because all his hard work and sacrifice paid off,” Kugimiya said.
“Actually, he had done better in practice so I was confident about his performance.”
Yulo’s outstanding performance seemed to unnerve Briton Dominick Cunningham, the 2018 European floor exercise champion and the last gymnast to perform, who wound up dead last with a tally of 13.566 points.
During the post-event interview, Yulo paid tribute to Kugimiya by draping his gold medal around his Japanese mentor’s neck.
“Mas confident po ako sa landing ko ngayon kaysa duon sa all-around finals last Friday.
Malaking bagay din po iyon (I was more confident with my landing than I was in the all-around finals),” said Yulo. “It was God who gave me this gold because I could not have done it on my own.”
The golden finish ensured that the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines protégé will see action in two men’s artistic gymnastics events in the Tokyo Olympic Games. After qualifying for the men’s all-around event as early as last Monday when he finished 18th in the qualifiers, he proved that the feat was no fluke when he finished No. 10 in the finals last Friday.
“I’m a bit scared now,” Yulo said, knowing he would be a marked man in Tokyo.
“Caloy’s victory will have a huge impact on Philippine gymnastics since he has proven that we can produce world champions,” GAP president Cynthia Carrion said. “We hope that we will get more supporters for the sport now with his success.”