Official confident that gymnast Carlos Yulo will bag gold in Tokyo Olympics
He is being kept away from all distractions — and all other heavy lifting — as expectations of historic feat in Tokyo soar
The Philippines will end its Olympic gold drought in Tokyo, where gymnast Carlos Yulo will assume the role as historic hero.
That is, if you ask Cynthia Carrion, the gymnastics chief who is making sure her ward will deliver in the Summer Games that she has built fences around Yulo, including turning down an invitation from the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to have the reigning world champion do the honors of carrying the flag during the opening ceremonies.
“You know how heavy flags are,” Carrion, the president of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines (GAP) said in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association forum. “They asked him and I said no. He has a competition the following day and he needs to rest.”
Carrion wants Yulo fully focused on the job at hand that she has limited interactions with the Southeast Asian champion.
“I know he will come back [here in the Philippines] with a gold medal,’’ Carrion said. “In all the videos of him that I have seen, his training is perfect. If he does perfectly well in competition as he does in training and without deductions, I know he can do it.”
Carrion expects Yulo to bring home the gold in floor exercise and at least a silver in the vault. She also sees a podium finish in the parallel bars.
There is reason for her optimism—at least for part of her predictions. Yulo is the reigning world champion in floor exercise, having ruled the event in 2019 in Germany, where he beat Israel’s Ukraine-born gymnast Artem Dolgopyat for the title. Yulo, the youngest gymnast in the field during that competition, scored 15.300 against Dolgopyat’s 15.200. China’s Xiao Ruoteng finished third with 14.933.
But to fulfill Carrion’s predictions in vault and parallel bars will be a challenge. Yulo faces the likes of reigning world champion Nikita Nagornyy of Russia and his compatriot, Artur Dalaloyan, who finished second. United Kingdom’s Joe Fraser, meanwhile, is the world champion of parallel bars and he and runner-up Ahmet Önder of Turkey will give Yulo a run for his money.
Yulo, who has also been studying in Japan for the past four years, recently won a bronze medal in the parallel bars event in the 2021 All-Japan Apparatus Championships.
“He looks perfect,” Carrion said. “I just hope and pray that he doesn’t get injured. Caloy’s mind, emotions and skills have all been strengthened. He is so calm when you talk to him. It’s me who gets really nervous with the Olympics fast approaching.’’
Yulo will first go through the qualification and ranking rounds on July 24, a day after the Games’ opening, and expects to see action in the all-round finale on July 28 and the finals of the individual apparatuses on Aug. 1 to 3 at the Olympic Gymnastic Center in Tokyo.
After receiving the first dose of his Pfizer vaccine last month, Yulo will be fully inoculated next week against the dreaded COVID-19 virus.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t want him vaccinated [with just a few weeks left before the Olympics]. But [International Gymnastics Federation president Morinari] Watanabe told me that if Caloy is positive, he will no longer be allowed to compete. That’s why I agreed,’’ said Carrion.
The 21-year-old Yulo, discovered by the GAP at the age of seven at a playground near the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex where the gymnastics offices are located, has been training in Japan the past four years under the tutelage of coach Munehiro Kugimiya.
Aside from Yulo, also being eyed to end the country’s century-old search for an Olympic champion are golfer Yuka Saso, the national boxing team, and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz.
A total of 19 Filipinos will be seeing action in the Olympics, which was moved to this year after a pandemic wiped out its staging last year. INQ
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