STUTTGART - Carlos Edriel Yulo capped his campaign in the 41st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on a stirring golden note on Saturday by clinching the men’s floor exercise title at the Hans Schleyer Halle here.
Performing 7th among the eighth finalists, Yulo came through with an awe-inspiring display of grace, artistry and athleticism in a performance that netted him 15.300 points and the gold.
Israel’s Artem Dolgopyat was the frontunner whose 15.200 points seemed unbreakable until Yulo’s turn came, with the Filipino’s difficult routine emerging as the major difference.
Yulo garnered 6.500 — the highest among the eight entries which included Dolgopyat who managed 6.400 – as he mesmerized the crowd that almost filled the 15,000-seat arena.
Likewise eclipsed by Yulo’s triumph was China’s Xiao Ruoteng, the men’s all-around silver medalist in the 2018 edition in Doha, Qatar, who also 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 excellent performance.
Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, who trained the Filipino for six years, was in 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 ended up 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 world 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 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 have 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 have been monitoring the competition.
“The Office of the President and the PSC family congratulate Caloy on this achievement. Mabuhay ang atletang Pilipino!”