Carlos “Caloy” Yulo took on the sport’s royalty and emerged as champion in the parallel bars in the 14th Asian Junior Gymnastics Championships in Thailand on Monday.
That he did it with a sprained ankle spoke of the dedication and determination of the young Filipino athlete to shine for flag and country in Asian gymnastics where the podium has almost always been crowded by Chinese, Japanese and Korean (South and North) winners and runners-up.
This time in Bangkok on Monday, Yulo (13.825 points) relegated a Japanese—Kateru Kitazono—to second place (13.75) and a Chinese—Chen Yihao—who had been tipped to nail the title, to third (13.65) in the only apparatus left for him to compete in after an accident during practice.
Scheduled to also contest the high bar, the pommel horse, the rings, the vault the floor exercise and the all-around titles, the 17-year old Filipino settled for the parallel bars, which he said would require him to land without as much effort as the other apparatuses would demand.
He may have realized that in choosing to make the Philippines proud, he risked a possibly serious threat to his career, if not to his very life, but Yulo went for it anyway.
Men’s gymnastics, as well as women’s gymnastics, arguably is a rough-and-tumble sport and one mistake in executing a Triple Russian in Single Pommel (pommel horse) and a Double Back with 3/1 Twists (floor exercise), could sideline anyone for months or, worse, for life.
We are not saying that other Filipino athletes should all be like Yulo gymnast who literally went out on a limb, only that they be inspired perhaps by his leap of faith.
But if they could be like him, why not?
“Caloy is really a fighter and finally won the gold despite the injury. We are so proud of him,” Bettina Pou, secretary general of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines, said after Yulo sealed the deal.
The boy is no stranger to winning in world-class gymnastics competitions, having topped the rings—plus three more medals—in the Mikhail Voronin Cup in Moscow in 2016 and the floor exercise and the vault—plus three more—in the 8th Pan Pacific Gymnastics Championships in Washington also in 2016.
There is already talk in Philippine gymnastics circles that Yulo could be a medal contender in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,
For now, let him heal from his injury.