27 May, 2017

Filipino gymnast Yulo plays hurt, bags Asian Juniors parallel bars gold

AGU Office, BANGKOK (THI): May 26, 2017: Young Filipino gymnast Carlos Yulo had high expectations of doing well in the 14th Asian Junior Artistic Gymnastic Championships at the Nimibtur Gymnasium here.
After all, Yulo, 17, had undergone three months of intensive training at the Japan national training center in Tokyo, where he has been for nearly a year, for this tournament and was eager to make his first and only outing in the Asian Juniors a memorable one.
Even his Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya was optimistic that “If Caloy (Yulo’s nickname) can avoid making mistakes he has a chance to win a medal here.”
But disaster struck on May 16, on the eve of the team and individual boys all-around finals, when the boy twisted his left ankle badly during afternoon practice while doing his routine on the floor exercise, ironically one of his pet events.
“He landed badly on his left ankle and it swelled to the size of a grapefruit,” noted assistant coach Aldrin Castaneda, who witnessed the accident, in Filipino. “Caloy could hardly walk on his left ankle after that.”
The coaching staff tried to relieve Yulo’s pain and the swelling on his ankle with immediate therapy and medication but his prospects of performing on Wednesday looked bleak at that time.
It would have been a huge letdown for the young boy, who became a protégé of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines 10 years ago when his grandfather brought him to train with the association.
Yulo lives in a poor neighborhood behind the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex where the GAP national training center is located.  GAP president Cynthia Carrion and secretary general Bettina Pou saw his huge potential and took him under their wings.
The gymnast who has earned the moniker “Tiny Twister” proved to be a precocious talent, winning three straight overall championships in the national schools sportsfest known as the “Palarong Pambansa.”
With the help of the Japan Gymnastics Association and the financial support of Philippine Sports Commission, the national government sports agency, Yulo was sent to train in Japan and is being groomed as a strong medal prospect for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
In December 2015, he showed the fruits of his Japanese training in bagging the  rings gold in the junior competitions of the tough Voronin Cup in Moscow, Russia on top of a pair silvers and a bronze in the all-around.
Despite the injury, Yulo, however, was determined not to let his one and only Asian Juniors stint go to waste.
“Sayang naman  po, nandito na naman ako (It would be a waste not to compete since I am here already),” said the brave yet soft-spoken lad in Filipino. 
Three hours before the boys all-around competitions last ,Yulo and the coaching staff tried to work out his injury and gauge if  he was capable of performing.
While Kugimiya was hesistant in letting his ward compete with the injury, the boy was just as firm in seeing action in his Asian Juniors swan song.
“It is up to me so I will compete,” said Yulo, who was the lone Philippine entry in the Asian Juniors. 
So as not to stress the boy’s injured ankle, Kugimiya limited the athlete’s participation to the rings, pommel horse and parallel bars, leaving out the floor exercise, vault and high bar, and a chance to gain a crack at an individual all-around medal.
Competing in the second subdivision or group of gymnasts, Yulo had was wobbly on rings and pommel horse event in the qualifiers, feeling the pain each time he dismounted from the apparatuses.
Remarkably, however, the Filipino’s outing in the parallel bars was successful, eventually finishing fifth overall with 13.45 points to earn passage into the finals of the apparatus on Sunday, May 21.
The Filipino gymnast’s courageous performance here last Wednesday gave new meaning to the saying “no gain without pain” so that his stint here would not be in vain.
True enough, Yulo’s sacrifices didn’t go unrewarded in the final day of the competition, performing with aplomb to bag the parallel bars gold a score of 13.825 points and exit the Asian Juniors with a bang.      
Caption:  Carlos Yulo shows winning form on the way to winning the gold medal at the close of the 14th Asian Juniors Artistic Gymnastics Championships yesterday.

Carlos Yulo (center) proudly displays the gold medal he won in ruling the boys parallel bars at the end of the 14th Asian Juniors Gymnastics Championships yesterday. Flanking him are Japanese silver medalist Takeru Kitazono (left) and bronze medalist Chen Yihao of China.