Yulo first Filipino to win gold in World Gymnastsics 

Carlos Edriel Yulo twirls in the air on the way to clinching the men’s floor exercise gold medal at the 49th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the Hans Schleyer Halle in Stuttgart, Germany last Saturday. (All photos by Janneth Tenorio )

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STUTTGART, Germany – Carlos Edriel Yulo capped his campaign in the 41st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on a stirring golden note on Saturday in clinching the men’s floor exercise title at the Hans Schleyer Halle here.

Performing next to last among the eight finalists, Yulo came through with an awe-inspiring display of grace, artistry, and athleticism in securing the gold with an eye-popping score of 15.300 points.

The shoulders of Israel’s 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.

Also 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 – that proved to be the winning edge

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 the score flashed –  aware that the gold was in the bag.

Likewise eclipsed by Yulo’s triumph was China’s Xiao Ruoteng, the men’s all-around silver medalist in the 2018 edition held in Doha, Qatar, who likewise seemed a cinch for silver with his 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 over six years had molded the once rough diamond into a world-beater, was seen his tears while watching his ward humble the giants in the sport.

Among them was newly-crowned Russian all-around champion Nikita Nagornyy, who could only muster 14.166 in opening the all-around finals and wallowed in sixth place.

The same for defending floor exercise champion and compatriot Artur Dalaloyan, who placed fourth (14.800), as the diminutive Pinoy gymnast stood head and shoulders above the rest of the impressive field.

Yulo’s outstanding performance apparently unnerved Briton Dominick Cunningham, the 2018 European floor exercise champion and the last gymnast to perform, and he wound up dead last with a tally of 13.566 points.

And for the first time in the 41 editions of the global gymnastics showcase, the Philippine national anthem was played in the tournament that drew the best gymnasts from 92 countries to this picturesque German City.

“I am speechless because I did not expect to win because I thought the Israeli’s score was far too high,” admitted Yulo. “But I wanted to show everyone what I could do so I just wanted to do my best. Talagang napakasaya ko po.”

“I am happy for Caloy because all his hard work and sacrifice paid off,” noted Kugimiya. “Actually he has done better in practice so I was confident about his performance.”

During the post-event interview, Yulo paid tribute to Kugimiya by taking off the gold medal and draping it around the 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,” said Yulo. “It was God who gave me this gold because I could not have done it on my own.”

The golden finish also ensured that the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines protege will see action in two men’s artistic gymnastics events in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

He earlier qualified for the men’s all-around event as early as Monday when he finished 18th in the qualifiers, and underscored that the feat was no fluke when he placed No. 10 in the finals last Friday.

“I’m a bit scared now,” admitted Yulo, knowing that he would be a marked man in the event in the Tokyo  Olympics.

“Caloy’s (Yulo’s nickname) victory will have a huge impact on Philippine gymnastics since he has proven that we can produce world champions in the sport,” GAP president Cynthia Carrion pointed out. “We hope that we will get  more supporters for the sport now with his success.”

Back home, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez praised Yulo’s performance, saying: “We are thrilled with the golden performance with Yulo at the world champs. President Rodrigo Duterte is happy,  Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and (former Special Assistant to the President and) Sen. Bong Go has been monitoring the competition.

“The Office of the President and the PSC family congratulates Caloy on this achievement. Mabuhay ang atletang Pilipino!”

“We would like to congratulate Caloy Yulo and the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines in producing a world champion. His hard work and dedication paid off,” echoed Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino. “His accomplishment should inspire  our other athletes to do well in the 30th Southeast Asian Games in December.”

Yulo and Kugimiya, who were earlier scheduled to fly back to Tokyo to resume training,  were prevailed upon by Carrion first to return to Manila on Monday because Ramirez was arranging for all three of them to pay a courtesy call on President Duterte in Malacanang on Wednesday.  /pooled report

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