Filipino Reyland Capellan achieved a major breakthrough last Friday, advancing to the men’s individual vault finals of the 7th Asian Seniors Artistic Gymnastics Championships at the Nimibutr Gymnasium in Bangkok, Thailand.
A gold medalist in the 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian Games, Capellan scored 13.750 points in the qualifying round, placing fourth overall behind Vietnamese topnotcher Le Than Tung, the reigning SEA Games men’s vault champion, who scored 14.350 points.
South Korean Kim Hansol took second (14.275) while Japan’s Hiroshi Uchida was third (14.125) among 20 countries taking part in the competition.
With the accomplishment, the 4-foot-11 Capellan nailed a spot among Asia’s elite in the final eight of the vault event scheduled for Sunday – a remarkable debut in the Asian gymnastics showcase.
He joined Caloy Yulo, who qualified for the boys’ parallel bars finals of the 14th Asian Juniors Artistic Gymnastics Championships also tomorrow, as the last Filipino athletes standing in this trip supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Capellan, 23, is a former cheerleader who was taken under the wings of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines nearly six years ago.
The gymnast, who comes from a huge brood of 14 children residing in Pililla, Rizal, ended his campaign by topping subdivision 1 at around 2:30 p.m. after competing only in two events of the six events, the other being the floor exercise.
But Capellan had to wait for nearly six hours back at the athletes’ hotel to see if he had made it or not to the finals as the crack teams from China, South Korea and Japan were yet to perform in the later subdivisions.
Left at the venue to await the outcome was Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya and his deputy, Aldrin Castañeda, who often kept looking up on the electronic scoreboard to see if their charge had qualified.
Both Kugimiya and Castañeda smiled, stood up and heaved a sigh of relief after seeing that their ward’s score had held up against assault of the crack gymnasts in Asia.
“That Capellan and Yulo qualified in their respective apparatus finals shows that GAP has a program,” noted GAP secretary general and PH squad delegation head Bettina Pou. “We practically started from scratch when we took over seven years ago.
“Slowly but surely we are moving up. Our aim first was to be competitive against our Southeast Asian rivals then eventually be able to be at par with the best in Asia such as China, Korea and Japan.”
The GAP official also pointed out that the national women’s squad was also not too far behind and was, in fact, the best Southeast Asian country behind Malaysia in this tournament serving as the main tuneup for the National for the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.
As for the status of Yulo, who twisted his left ankle in practice last Tuesday, Kugimiya said that there was slight improvement on his injury.
“At least he can dismount now without wobbling,” the coach said.