Gymnastics

‘Controlled’ Carlos Yulo all set for world title defense

Kantaro Suzuki
‘Controlled’ Carlos Yulo all set for world title defense

BACK SOON. Carlos Yulo looks to return in top shape in the world championships.

Dylan Martinez/Reuters

‘He used to get himself down when something goes wrong, but now he can control his emotions,’ coach Munehiro Kugimiya says of top Filipino gymnast Carlos Yulo

Fresh from his Olympic debut, Carlos Yulo already has his sights set on the upcoming world championships. 

Although the Filipino gymnastics star failed to medal in the Tokyo Games, Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya thinks his ward is doing just fine as Yulo prepares to defend his World Artistic Gymnastics Championships title – and perhaps clinch a few more – in the competition set in Kitakyushu, Japan from October 18 to 24.

“He used to get himself down when something goes wrong, but now he can control his emotions,” Munehiro said of Yulo. 

“If he made a mistake during practice, he would take a deep breath, meditate, and tell me to give him some time to concentrate,” the coach added during a Zoom interview with Rappler.  

Heading into the Olympics, Yulo carried a load of expectations after making history as the first Filipino to win in the world championships when he ruled the floor exercise in 2019.

Yulo fell short in his favored event in Tokyo, but the diminutive gymnast pulled off a surprise when he came close to a podium finish in the vault competition. Missing that chance to get an Olympic medal motivates Yulo to do better. 

Wala naman pong mawawala sa akin eh kaya… binibigay ko po lahat (I have nothing to lose that’s why… I give it my all),” Yulo, with his timid smile, said in the same Zoom interview a week after his Olympic stint. 

With his next major competition still set in Japan in just a couple of months, the 21-year-old gymnast won’t be back in the Philippines just yet. But his family back home, of course, is the number one reason that keeps him going.

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Yulo moved from the Philippines to Tokyo in 2016 to study but the first time he visited Japan was back in 2012. 

Like most of the foreign residents here, it wasn’t easy for Yulo as the language barrier was primarily the reason for his distress. He was afraid, too, to share his troubles to his family. 

Ayoko po magsabi sa mga magulang ko na nahihirapan po ako kasi… anak po ako eh, mas mahihirapan po sila. Ayoko po kasing mag-alala sila,” he said. 

(I don’t want to tell my parents that I am having a hard time because… I’m their son, it’ll be hard for them. I don’t want them to worry about me.)

It was only in 2018 when Yulo started attending Japanese courses. But by December this year, he is set to take a language proficiency test for N2 level, which is already the Japanese Business level. 

An Olympic athlete like Yulo could boast his recent athletic achievements, but he seemed more proud to share that he jumped from N5 (Basic Japanese) level to N3 (Conversational Japanese), impressively skipping the N4 (Intermediate Japanese) test. 

Here’s an excerpt of Yulo’s chat with this Japanese reporter: 

Reporter:お疲れ様でした。

(Thank you for your hard work.)

Yulo: 応援ありがとうございました。

(Thank you for supporting me.)

Reporter: 体調はどうですか?疲れていますか?

(How are you feeling? Are you still tired?)

Yulo: 今は、だいぶ良くなってきました。一昨日までは、動きませんでしたが、昨日から調子が良くなってきました。

(My condition is getting better now. I was very tired two days ago, but I have been feeling much better since yesterday.)

Strict coach’

Munehiro and Yulo live together in Japan, but coach Mune, as he is fondly called, admitted he keeps a strict student-coach distance between them. 

“If I get too close to Carlos, I won’t be able to criticize him. No matter how difficult the training is for Carlos, I have to push it as a coach,” said Munehiro. 

“If I become like a family member or treat him like a son, I can no longer strictly teach him. We live together like a family but I try to keep my face as a strict coach as much as possible.”

Yulo knows he still has a lot to learn. In the Tokyo Olympics, he admitted that during the floor exercise, he felt anxious that he would commit a misstep. 

Sobrang kino-control ko po sarili ko kasi feeling ko lalampas ako that time eh. Sa sobrang pag-control ko sa sarili ko, I ended up not able to control it. Sayang,” he said.  

(I was trying to control myself because I was afraid I would go beyond the floor, I ended up not able to control it. Too bad.) 

Yulo, who dreamt of becoming an Olympian since the age of 12, also rued his fourth-place finish in the vault finals. 

Nakakapanghinayang pa din po eh, kasi malapit na po ako sa top. Pero nangyari na po, so kailangan ko na lang talaga galingan sa training po,” said Yulo, who finished a fraction of a point away from a bronze. 

(It’s still a pity because I was already so close to the top. But it already happened so I just need to do better in my training.}

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It’s not all work, though, for Yulo as he also enjoys life in Japan, including the food.

Part of his living arrangement is for coach Mune to cook three times a week for his ward, although the Japanese doesn’t think his cooking was anything special. “I just add a lot of ginger and garlic and cook the pork,” he said.

Yulo initially didn’t like Natto (Japanese fermented beans) and miso soup but now, “sobrang sarap!” (It’s really tasty!) 

Still, the young athlete misses eating Filipino food such as sinigang.

When asked to pick a favorite among his coach’s dishes, Yulo didn’t hesitate to say, laughing, “Masarap po lahat ng luto ni coach Mune, iba-iba din po niluluto niya eh… Puwede na po mag-asawa!”

(All of his dishes are delicious, with a variety too… He can already marry!) 

What coach Mune does for Yulo may be beyond his duties, but the Japanese doesn’t mind, as he also hopes to set a good example.

“I want Carlos to be a good coach with the idea that a coach exists for athletes and not the other way around,” he said. – Rappler.com 

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