Yulo’s setback happens to best

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Yuloâs setback happens to best
Caloy Yulo
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — For an Olympic rookie, gymnast Caloy Yulo experienced a setback that isn’t uncommon among first-timers in the quadrennial conclave. He faltered on at least two landings in the floor exercise, lost composure and failed to qualify for the final in Tokyo last Saturday. As the world champion in the event, Yulo was tipped to at least make the eight-man cut but his performance was good for only 44th place.

But it’s not the end of the world for Yulo who’ll shoot for a podium finish in vault, the only apparatus where he qualified for the final, on Monday. “It’s his second best event after floor then third is parallel bars,” said Gymnastics Association of the Philippines (GAP) president Cynthia Carrion. “My heart broke into a million pieces when Caloy didn’t perform as expected. Karen (sports psychologist Dr. Trinidad) spoke to him for about an hour after, he’s calm now, relaxed. He was in tears. He felt he let us all down. But he’s only 21. The judges told (PSC chairman) Butch (Ramirez) he’s a phenomenal athlete, don’t give up on him because he’ll give us a lot of gold medals in the future. We believe in Caloy. In 2024, he’ll bring us gold from Paris.”

Yulo scored 14.712 points to rank sixth among 25 contenders in vault. First-placer was Shin Jae-hwan of South Korea as the points registered by the eight qualifiers ranged from 14.866 to 14.466. Carrion earlier said a podium finish in vault is doable for Yulo. “It took Hidilyn three Olympics to get a silver and four for a gold,” she said. “Caloy will do his best on Monday.”

Carrion said there’s no reason to blame Yulo’s Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya. “We love coach Mune, he takes care of Caloy,” she said. “Sometimes, he pushes Caloy too much, sometimes they disagree on things. But that’s how it is. Two weeks before the Olympics began, Caloy fell on his back while practicing the triple backflip and double forward and hurt his hip. Because of the fall, the decision was to just focus on his skills and not try it. Caloy said his hip didn’t hurt but I noticed some discomfort when he walked. It’s a sure gold if you do the triple backflip and double forward.”

Whether Yulo stays in Tokyo for training or goes home to his family after the Olympics is still up in the air. “Coach Mune wants Caloy to stay in Tokyo to train for a big competition in October,” said Carrion. “Caloy’s been away from home for two years. We’ll decide what to do when the time comes.” Carrion said the plan is to qualify not only in individual but also in team in Paris.

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