Carlos Yulo’s coach targets 2032 for next-gen Filipino Olympians

Beatrice Go

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Carlos Yulo’s coach targets 2032 for next-gen Filipino Olympians

MAJOR SUPPORT. Gymnastics star Carlos Yulo attends the inauguration of the gymnastics hall with (from left) coach Munehiro Kugimiya, GAP president Cynthia Carrion, and Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhito.


With more grassroots investment, Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya hopes there will be more Filipino gymnasts in the 2032 Brisbane Olympics

MANILA, Philippines – What started as a simple trip to the Philippines 10 years ago turned into a long-term commitment as multiple world title-clinching Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya now hopes to lead the way in bringing more success to Philippine gymnastics grassroots program.

After helping pave the way for the Japan Embassy to invest in the sport’s development in the country, Kugimiya aims to send the next generation of Filipino gymnasts to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

“There’s a lot of great talent in the Philippines. Like Carlos (Yulo), they’re all just living around this gym, what more nationwide,” said Kugimiya. 

“So, this is just the beginning of this project as apparatus is very expensive, but now, a lot children can start gymnastics here.”

The Japan government donated over $130,000 or roughly P7 million worth of gymnastics equipment from Japanese sports brand Senoh, which was used in the Tokyo Olympics. 

“I want to start on this because this project is for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics,” said Kugimiya. 

According to gymnastics national team coaches Jon Azuro and Naomi Soco, the new set of equipment is vital to prevent injuries among the young gymnasts and can help them get used to world-class apparatus. 

“We had a drought of new equipment from the last one in 2019. We had other equipment, but we knew as coaches that we lack the equipment to develop better skills for the gymnasts,” shared Soco, who heads the women’s gymnastics team. 

“One of the things that I’m most grateful for is that the Senoh mats are really so nice and they’re so soft that whenever the gymnasts can tumble and land on it, hindi siya lumalaban (it doesn’t recoil) and helps absorb the impact of the gymnasts.” 

Azuro, who was a former national team member, said that in the past, the facilities and equipment were small and incomplete so they had to get creative with what was available to them.

Dati nagtrtraining kami sa small gym. Ngayon, nandito kami sa lugar na ito, mas mafeel namin na komportable na sila,” he said. “Kung napagod ka, hindi mo kailangan magligpit [ng gamit] o magtiklop [ng mat]. Dati, kung di kami nakapagligpit, papagalitan kami ng venue manger.” 

(We used to train in a small gym. Now that we’re in this gymnastics hall, we feel that the athletes are more comfortable since they don’t have to pack away the equipment or fold the mats. Before, if we didn’t pack away the equipment, the venue manager will scold us.) 

The Gymnastics Association of the Philippines (GAP), who first brought Kugimiya to the Philippines in 2013, will continue to foster collaboration with the Japan Gymnastics Association. 

GAP president Cynthia Carrion said they are working on an exchange program for the Filipino and Japanese gymnasts.

“Kenji Nashimura, the new secretary-general of the Japan Gymnastics Association, wanted Filipinos to go to Japan and for the Japanese gymnasts to come here so we’ll be working together,” said Carrion. 

Kugimiya, who has mentored Yulo throughout his historic performances in the world championships and the Olympics, first brought the 23-year-old gymnastics star to Japan in 2016 where he studied in Teikyo University. 

In 2019, Yulo made history as he clinched the country’s first gymnastics world championship gold in the floor exercise and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Now, he has two golds, two silvers and two bronze world medals under his belt. 

This year, the 4-foot-11 dynamo will again vie for an Olympic berth in the world championships in Antwerp, Belgium from September 30 to October 8. –

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.