EXCLUSIVE: Above all else, Carlos Yulo chooses ‘peace of mind’

Jasmine W. Payo

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EXCLUSIVE: Above all else, Carlos Yulo chooses ‘peace of mind’

GOLDEN BOY. Carlos Yulo in action for the Philippines in the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Singapore.

Linee Yeo/Artistic Gymnastics World Championships

For the past year, Philippine gymnastics star Carlos Yulo tries to sort out his life’s tumbles and turns – from parting ways with his longtime coach, to cutting ties with his management group, to saving what’s left from frayed family relationships, and to standing by his decision to love

MANILA, Philippines – Carlos Yulo admits that he did change.

But he no longer minds when detractors call him names, all essentially alluding to how he turned into an “ingrate” to the very people who molded him into a world gymnastics champion. 

Over the past year, the Philippine sports star parted ways with Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, which quite recently, also led to cutting ties with their management group.

There’s also a deep-rooted rift with some family members, partly stemming from his decision to be with his girlfriend in Manila as he left everything behind in Japan, where he studied and trained for nearly a decade.

EXCLUSIVE: Above all else, Carlos Yulo chooses ‘peace of mind’

While on the surface it looks like he gave up all chances for more sporting glory – even though he’s already a world champion twice over in floor exercise and vault – Yulo said he still very much wants to win. 

But the 24-year-old gymnast has to do it differently this time as his initial plans didn’t pull through.

“I tried talking to him (Munehiro), to compromise when it comes to gymnastics – like, ‘Okay, I’ll follow you. I’ll do everything that you want me to do.’ I will really do everything,” Yulo said in Filipino during an exclusive interview with Rappler.

“But I also told him, ‘Coach, outside gymnastics, bigay ’nyo na lang po sa akin ‘to (please give me my personal time).’ That’s like my only time to take a break. I was in Japan, I didn’t really have that many friends there.”

“I feel like I’ve outgrown our relationship,” Yulo added. “Mas pinili ko ‘yung peace of mind ko…pinili ko ‘yung sarili ko. ‘Yung peace ko po (I chose my peace of mind…I chose myself. I needed peace).”

PET EVENT. Carlos Yulo flashes his impressive form in floor exercise.

“I moved to train in the Philippines even though I knew there are many obstacles,” the Filipino Olympian said. “I know it’s harder to train here.”

It’s difficult, but Yulo feels happier even minus the first-world comforts. He thinks he’s now a well-rounded person, learning that he can love gymnastics and still live a life outside of it.

Dati, puro gymnastics lang talaga ‘yung alam ko (All I really knew before was gymnastics),” said Yulo.

Meeting Chloe San Jose changed all that. From a long-distance romance, they’re now four years strong – a relationship that, Yulo said, helped him grow, allowing him to see life in a different perspective.

“My relationship, it’s out of gymnastics…but if it’s in any way connected, I now have a better well-being. Whenever I perform, I have a better mindset. Even if I fall, win or lose, I’m grateful,” shared Yulo.

“My partner taught me to grow,” said Yulo of San Jose, a bubbly content creator. “She helped me…tungkol sa sarili ko, ‘yun yung kulang sa akin. Natulungan niya ako mag-grow doon (learning about myself, I didn’t have that. She helped me grow in that aspect).”  

“I grew as a person. Mas nakilala ko ‘yung sarili ko (I got to know myself more),” he continued.

Blouse, Clothing, Dress
ALL LOVE. Gymnastics star Carlos Yulo with his girlfriend, content creator Chloe San Jose.

While some think his love life turned into a distraction – that he’s far from his fiery form on the floor – Yulo said it’s quite the contrary.  

“Masasabi kong gusto ko talaga ‘yung ginagawa ko (I can say that I really love what I do)…. I still love gymnastics.”

Habang ginagawa ko ‘yung gymnastics, mas minamahal ko ‘yung sarili ko rin (While I do gymnastics, I’m also loving myself more),” Yulo added. 

“I’m giving more attention to my mental health, my well-being. In that aspect, I’ve grown. I haven’t realized it before [that they’re important] when I was in Japan.”

While Yulo admitted his life choices no longer sit well with some members of his family, he also learned to live with it.

“I’m okay with my papa. My papa visits me, he asks me out to eat. He also tells me to always pray, those kind of things,” Yulo shared. “He always checks on me in the gym.”

The first Southeast Asian world gymnastics champion also still gets to talk to his younger brother Eldrew, who’s making his own name in the sport’s junior circuit. 

“He sometimes asks, like if he has problems with some skills, things like that,” Yulo said. “He just asks about gymnastics.”

“With my family, I wish that they’re okay. I pray that they’ll always be safe.”

BROTHERS. Eldrew Yulo (left) looks to follow in the footsteps of older brother and Filipino gymnastics star Carlos.

The soft-spoken gymnast has really embraced this new balance in his life. He’s no longer fueled by anger, he said, even learning how to channel his competitive spirit the “proper way.”

“It was about frustration, anger. Even in interviews, I used to say in competitions that it’s about revenge,” Yulo recalled. “But with everything that happened, even in practice, it’s like, that’s not the proper way. For me, that’s not the right way.”

Kasi nauubos po talaga ‘yung sarili ko kapag anger or frustration galing ‘yung motivation ko (I get consumed when my motivation comes from anger or frustration),” he shared.

Nahihirapan na nga ako, frustrated pa ako (I’m already having a hard time, then I’m still frustrated). That’s what I realized. I learned to realize…to be happy. To be grateful that I went through this process.”

While his past gymnastics success already propelled him to elite status, Yulo still looks very motivated, even if some don’t see it that way.

An Olympic medal in the Paris Games this July remains a goal, but at the same time, he feels more ready to deal with his life’s tumbles and turns.

“When I do gymnastics, it’s sports, so we really don’t know what will happen, no matter how consistent you are. We don’t know who will win or lose,” said Yulo. “So every time I compete, I know in myself that I gave my best that day.”

“’Pag nagperform ako this time, alam kong masaya ako sa gagawin ko at mas mabibigay ko ‘yung buong puso ko (When I perform this time, I know that I’m happy with what I’ll do, and I can give my whole heart).” –

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Jasmine W. Payo

Jasmine joined Rappler as its sports editor in 2018 after over a decade of working as a sportswriter for a national broadsheet.