WORLD artistic gymnastics champion Caloy Yulo is undoubtedly the best thing that happened in Philippine gymnastics since the days of Demetrio Pastrana and Fortunato Payao in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and Ernesto Beren and Norman Henson in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
Yulo made history by winning the gold medal in the men’s floor exercise at the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany last October 2019.
The 20-year-old pride of Malate, Manila is also set to end the country’s 52-year absence in Olympics gymnastics when he competes in the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Before Yulo, Pastrana and Payao represented the country in Tokyo in 1964 and Beren and Norman Henson in Mexico in 1968.
Whether or not Yulo can finally win the elusive Olympic gold medal for the country remains to be seen.
Regardless of the results of their perfomances n the Olympics, all these five men have already made the record books and endeared themselves to the hearts of a nation forever in search for a hero.
But as an old, familiar phrase would tell us, “Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman.”
In the case of Yulo, there’s his mother.
And then there’s also Gymnastics Association of the Philippines (GAP) president Cynthia Carrion.
When she guested in the 10th “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippines (TOPS) and presented by the Philippine Sports Commission and PAGCOR last Sept. 3, Carrion was, as usual, had a lot of good things to say.
Let’s listen to her:
On Yulo’s meteoric rise from humble beginnings in Malate to the world stage:
“I knew it all along. At first, nobody paid attention to gymnastics and Caloy. But I saw his potential when no one did. I asked him to join the Batang Pinoy and the Palarong Pambansa. I promised to get him a good coach. But I had to appeal for financial support. I had to dig deep into my own pockets to help Yulo’s training under coach Munehiro Kugimiya.”
On Yulo’s chances of winning the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in Tokyo next year:
“Last year, I had a strong feeling that he would win the gold medal in FIG World Championships in Stuttgart and he did.I believe he will again win the gold in Tokyo Olympics — the first for the country since making our debut in the 1924 Olympics.”
On the sacrifices needed to win an Olympic gold medal:
“There’s a lot of work to do for this Olympic gold. Ang dami-daming gastos. But I will find a way. I know the PSC will help. The MVP Sports Foundation is also helping. I will talk to Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corp. I will ask the help of the Congress. They all know naman that Caloy is giving his all to win this Olympic gold.”
On the gymnasts’ problems of finding a training venue during the pandemic:
“It’s terrible because we have no training until now. I’m so sad because we’re still not ready for the SEA Games. Our gymnasts can’t train right now. hey have nothing to do. They are getting very unmotivated. Some want to quit and go into business.”
On the coming SEA Games in Vietnam:
“As I’ve said, we’re not ready. Caloy is the only ready because of his training in Japan. We have a team of five who want to join in the SEA Games but they are not training because of this pandemic. I need the PSC to help us in getting a new venue for training. POC president Bambol Tolentino said we cannot go from top to bottom. We have to defend the overall championship. We have to be there No. 2 or No. 3 at least. But without training, how can we do it?”
On the need to find other venues to train and borrow the PSC equipment:
“The venues are very expensive. Club Gmnastica is charging P60,000 a month and there’s a lot of tests. Colegio San Agustin is charging P8,000 a day for training.”
On the importance of regular training even during the pandemic:
“Training is very important. In gymnastics, you lose some of your skills if you don’t train for one or two days. But right now, our gym at Rizal Memorial is still closed. All the equipments are there. We have very beautiful equipments from the PSC, but our training venue at Rizal is like a warehouse now.”
On the need to get more support from like-minded individuals:
“Have you heard about or new GAP board? We have a very strong board right now. We have a lot of good people, like Jude Torcuato of PLDT, Sandra Tayag of Manila Polo Club and Makati Mayor Abby Binay, who can really help gymnastics. We need her help because we want to put uo a new gym in Makati. We have a lot of young athletes who want to join but they have a hard time going to the PSC.”
On the future of gymnastics after Yulo:
“I really want gymnastisc to be a popular sport. A lot of young kids are joining. Some of them join because they want to learn how to tumble but you can spot the skills. You can spot the real good ones. The brother of Caloy could be our next gold medalist. He told us he will be much, much better than Caloy. You should see how well he is doing. He’s amazing.”
On promoting women’s gymnastics in the country:
“I think we have to focus on our female gymnasts, too. They’re also very good. In fact, we just had a very successful online rythmic compeittions with more than100 participants.It was well done, really.”
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