Paris Olympics

With tons of lessons learned, Carlos Yulo goes for glory in Olympic return

Delfin Dioquino

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With tons of lessons learned, Carlos Yulo goes for glory in Olympic return

Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters

Carlos Yulo heads into the Paris Games in France with the same medal aspirations, but this time, he is more sure of himself three years after going home empty-handed from his maiden Olympic stint in Tokyo, Japan

One thing Filipino gymnastics star Carlos Yulo has learned as he sees action in his second Olympics is that it all comes down to him, no one else.

Yulo heads into the Paris Games in France with the same medal aspirations, but this time, he is more sure of himself three years after going home empty-handed from his maiden Olympic stint in Tokyo, Japan.

“I should focus on myself and let the other gymnasts do what they do,” said Yulo in a mix of Filipino and English when asked about the lessons he picked up from his Tokyo Games run.

“We all worked hard and we all worked ourselves to exhaustion in training. I should focus on where I’m at and be confident of my moves,” he added. “I should not get carried away by my mood and I should trust what I practiced.”

Carlos YuloM
STEADY. Carlos Yulo in action for the Philippines during the men’s artistic gymnastics competition of the Tokyo Olympics. Mike Blake/REUTERS

Then 21 years old, Yulo competed in Tokyo as a legitimate medal contender, having won bronze and gold in floor exercise in the 2018 and 2019 editions of the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, respectively.

But Yulo surprisingly finished a distant 44th place in the floor exercise qualification.

He gave himself a medal chance by reaching the vault finals, although he fell a fraction of a point short of a podium spot as he placed fourth.

As painful as it was not being able to meet those lofty expectations, his campaign in Tokyo helped Yulo become braver and smarter in his approach.

“I learned to move confidently and perform what I worked hard for in practice,” said Yulo in an episode of Rappler Talk Sports. “I noticed I was a bit shy back then, so I was not able to truly show what I was capable of doing.”

Medal hopes

In Paris, Yulo is expected to vie for gold in the floor exercise and vault – apparatuses where he is a former world champion.

And his impressive showing in the previous Asian Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he emerged as the best performing gymnast with four golds, augurs well for his Olympic chances.

CHAMPION. Carlos Yulo wins the individual all-around gold in the 2024 Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Asian Championships. Gymnastics Association of the Philippines Facebook page

Yulo ruled the floor exercise with 14.933 points and topped the vault with an average of 14.883 points.

If he recorded the same scores in Tokyo, Yulo would have tied floor exercise titlist Artem Dolgopyat of Israel (14.933) and edged vault winner Shin Jea-Hwan of South Korea (14.783).

But it should be noted that Yulo competed in the Asian championships without the pressure of having to go up against some of the best gymnasts in the continent, with powerhouse Japan missing action in the senior division.

The caliber of competition in Paris is a different beast altogether, with a lot of the medalists in Tokyo returning for another crack at Olympic glory.

Daiki Hashimoto, the reigning individual all-around and horizontal bar champion, leads a Japan side determined to capture the team all-around crown after settling for second behind the Russian Olympic Committee in Tokyo.

Other champions Dolgopyat (floor exercise), Liu Yang (still rings) and Zhou Jingyuan (parallel bars) of China, and Max Whitlock (pommel horse) of Great Britain are back as well.

Still, Yulo, 24, is up to the challenge.

“I discovered new skills and I know for myself that I can pull them off this time,” said Yulo. “I’m really aiming to win a medal this time and to have a better performance compared to before.”

Bumpy road

Yulo endured a bumpy journey back to the Olympics as he dealt with issues concerning his career and personal life in the lead-up to Paris.

TRIO. Carlos Yulo (middle) with former Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya (right) and Japanese physiotherapist Junpei Konno. Munehiro Kugimiya Facebook page

Probably at the top of that list is his separation with longtime Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, who mentored Yulo for almost a decade and guided him in his rise to gymnastics stardom.

They went their separate ways last year before the previous world championships in Antwerp, Belgium, where Yulo coincidentally saw his medal streak halted after winning at least one in each of the last four editions.

Although Yulo got the job done in Antwerp as he punched his ticket to Paris, his followers saw his split with Kugimiya as a major factor in his supposed drop in performance.

Acrobatic, Athlete, Gymnast
BALANCE. The Philippines’ Carlos Edriel Yulo in action during the men’s floor exercise final in the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Yves Herman/REUTERS

Estranged relationships with some of his family members also surfaced and Yulo recently parted ways with his management group.

For Yulo, though, every experience – be it good or bad – has contributed to his growth.

“I’ll bring everything that I’ve learned from my past mistakes to this Olympics so that I’ll be able to produce better results,” he said.

Yulo will be joined by Aleah Finnegan, Emma Malabuyo, and Levi Jung-Ruivivar in Paris as the Philippines matched its biggest gymnastics delegation to the Olympics.

“For me, I see they’re all capable of winning a medal,” said Yulo. “I’m happy and grateful that we qualified, but I’m also motivated… I want to win a medal.” –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.