STUTTGART. — Given the high stakes and sensing his Olympic hopes slowly slipping away, diminutive Carlos Edriel Yulo showed his huge fighting heart Monday in the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the Hans Martin Schleyer Halle here and was rewarded with a slot to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Yulo rose to the occasion in his last two events – the vault and parallel bars – in a gritty performance that sent him to the men’s all-around finals and, most important of all, become the second Pinoy athlete to secure a slot to the Tokyo Games.
Propped up by sterling identical scores of 14.333 points, Yulo finished 18th overall out of 160 entries to make the cut of 24 gymnasts in the all-around finals on Friday at the ultra-modern, 15,000-seat arena in the home of Porsche and Mercedes Benz.
In a historic first for Philippine gymnastics, the 4-foot-11 dynamo joined pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena to the Tokyo Olympics. Obiena sealed his own ticket to Tokyo early last month in ruling a meet in Italy.
As an icing on the cake, Yulo scored a solid 14.666 points in his pet event, the floor exercise, and finished seventh overall to make the cut of eight entries and advance to the finals of the apparatus on Saturday.
Yulo’s qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics was confirmed in an official press notice issued by the International Gymnastics Federation, known by its French acronym FIG, which was received by Gymnastics Association of the Philippines secretary general Bettina Pou back in Manila.
“Yes, Caloy has already qualified in the all-around because he has moved up as No. 1 in the individual rankings since China, Russia and Japan have already qualified their athletes after their 1-2-3 finish, respectively, at last year’s worlds held in Doha, Qatar,” Pou said.
“This is wonderful for Philippine gymnastics and for Caloy. It is an honor for GAP to have the second qualifier to the Olympics,” said GAP president Cynthia Carrion, who took the athlete way back in 2009 as a GAP protégé.
“Hopefully, he will continue to do well and win a medal in both the all-around and floor exercise. And we urge our countrymen back home to pray for his success here.”
Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino was elated by the good news, saying: “We would like to congratulate Caloy Yulo for being our country’s second Olympic qualifier. We would like to acknowledge GAP and its president, Cynthia Carrion, in making this happen.
“As he continues to train hard, we pray that this boy will be among our medal hopefuls in the Tokyo Olympics.”
Shortly after his performance, Yulo, the youngest entry in the men’s all-around event at 19, admitted that he felt pressured after bagging a bronze medal in the floor exercise last year.
“Medyo kinabahan po ako and my legs were shaking,” said Yulo, who began his campaign with a score of 13.033 points on the high bar.
Incorporating new and more difficult elements in his floor exercise routine, Yulo bounced back in style to wow the crowd of 6,000 inside the arena and tally 14.666, his best score among all the six apparatuses.
But he dipped in form in his next two events – the pommel horse and rings – with tallies of 12.466 and 13.553, respectively, and looked like he would miss the boat to the all-around finals.
But he regained his bearings to turn in high scores on the vault and parallel bars, an event where he won a gold medal in the 2017 Asian junior championships in Bangkok, Thailand, sealing his entry to the finals and to the Tokyo Games.
“Satisfied with Caloy’s performance but there is still a lot of work to be done,” stressed Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, who has mentored the gymnast for over six years and has seen him blossom into a world-class athlete, and now, an Olympic-bound one as well.
Yulo will have a three-day break to refine his performance before returning to action in the all-around finals on Friday.