HAD Carlos Edriel Yulo been a Japanese citizen, he would now be a member of the deep national men’s artistic gymnastic pool of Japan, based on his performance in the All-Japan Championships last Sunday at the Takasaki Arena in Takasaki, according to Japanese Munehiro Kugimiya,
“The top 12 in the competition will go to the national pool,” Kugimiya, the coach of the national men’s squad since 2015, said in a message to Malaya-Business Insight last Sunday night after the Filipino world floor exercise champion’s solid stint in the competition.
Yulo set a personal best score of 85.966 in the all-around finals and, coupled with his 84.066 in the preliminaries, placed eighth overall with 170.032 points behind all-round Japanese champion Kaya Kazuma (173.764). He also won bronze medals in the floor exercise and vault.
Kazuma, a 2015 world championship gold medalist, was challenged by Kitazono Takeru, who bagged five gold medals in the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games. Takeru finished a close second in the all-around with 173.262 points while Tanegawa Kakeru (173.096) was third.
Yulo’s 85.966 all-around score is better than the 84.048 he tallied in placing 10th overall in the men’s all-around finals at the 49th FIG World Artistic Gymnastics in Stuttgart, Germany in October last year where he also emerged as the country’s second Olympic qualifier and copped the men’s floor exercise gold.
The diminutive dynamo, who was the country’s most bemedalled athlete in the 2019 30th Southeast Asian Games with two gold and five bronze medals, scored 15.20 points in his pet event, slightly lower than his gold-medal winning performance of 15.30 in Stuttgart.
Sendai University’s Minami Kazuki (15.60) and Doi Ryosuke of the Nippon Sports Science University (15.30) took the gold and silver, respectively, in the event.
Yulo, who carried the colors of the Asahi Seimei Gymnastics, the home of ex-Olympic and world all-around champion Kohei Uchimura, took the bronze in the vault with a score of 14.866 points behind Hidenobu Yonekura (15.133) and Asato Keisuke (15.083), who came in 1-2 in the event, respectively.
“I’m proud with what Caloy (Yulo’s nickname) achieved but I believe he didn’t perform to his usual level,” said Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion, who discovered the athlete more than decade ago.
“He was really trying to work hard on his all-around which was why he was able to score his personal best in the event,” Carrion noted of the GAP protégé.
Carrion later said that perhaps Yulo, who has been given all-out support by the Philippine Sports Commission, and coach Kugimiya were keeping their cards close to their chests so the athlete would not be scouted by his rivals in the Tokyo Olympics.
“We know that a lot of his rivals have been scouting Caloy’s performances since he won the floor exercise gold at the world championships in Stuttgart last year,” the gymnastics chief said.
Training in Tokyo since 2016, Yulo is regarded as one of the country’s brightest hopes in ending the Philippine’s gold-medal drought since national campaigners made their debut in the 1924 Summer Games in Paris, France.