Carlos Yulo: The Making of a Filipino World Champion
A famous African proverb reads, “it takes a village to raise a child.” On the other hand, it only takes one person to notice a child’s talent, and make a champion out of him.
Thus is the story behind Filipino gymnast Carlos Yulo’s success, who at a young age continues to make history in the world of gymnastics.
Nobody dares to belittle the four-foot-nine teenager, who has already won over 400 medals before reaching the age of 20. Last year, he made headlines as the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to win a medal at the prestigious Word Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar. This was followed by more international triumphs, including clinching a spot to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
The talented lad is now back in the Philippines, bringing more honor to the country by showcasing his talent to fellow Filipinos and winning gold medals in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. His most recent medals were awarded to him right here at home – the Philippines – in front of cheering fans, consistently bagging top marks for his performances. The young athlete was even hoping to win a full Gold sweep of his seven artistic performance events, though he had to settle for Silver in two events so far. Still, no podium has been complete with Yulo.
But this success was not handed to Carlos on a silver plate, as he had to work extra hard to get to where he is now. It also took one person to see the potential in him – his grandfather, Rodrigo Frisco.
When he was just 7 years old, Carlos went with his sister and his grandfather to the Paraiso ng Batang Maynila public park where he would lounge around and the kids would play. Little did they know that Carlos’ fate as a world champion gymnast would be sealed on that same day. In the park, they spotted a gymnast doing a routine and young Caloy would repeatedly mimic the athlete’s moves. His perfect maneuvers would then stun his Lolo, who observed him in awe.
After that, Mr. Rodrigo wasted no time and brought Carlos and his sister to the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines. He had them participate in a free training program offered by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), where they trained under Coach Rodrigo Ortero at the Rizal Memorial Complex.
If it wasn’t for a Lolo’s belief in his apo, the Philippines would never have witnessed the greatness of Carlos Yulo.
Caloy gains support from sports advocates
Like any other athlete, it was also necessary for Carlos to garner additional support for his training and competitions.
Along came Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya of the Japan Gymnastics Association, who once visited the country to help train the Philippine team. During training, the Japanese coach saw the same potential that Lolo Rodrigo saw in Carlos, and asked the boy to train in Tokyo, with the supervision of the PSC and also through the support of Gymnastics Association of the Philippines President Cynthia Carrion-Norton.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Carlos is celebrated by Filipinos throughout the country and abroad for his exceptional talent. Last month, the Senate of the Philippines filed a resolution congratulating and commending him, along with fellow Pinoy athlete Nesthy Alcayde Petecio, for bringing glory to the country.
Both Lolo Rodrigo and Ms. Norton attested that support had also come in from key public servants and fellow sports advocates, including former student-athlete, triathlete, and now Senator Pia S. Cayetano.
Ms. Norton recounts that Sen. Cayetano was among the few individuals who responded to her when she had asked for assistance for the country’s gymnastics program back then. She had been looking for sponsors when the program was just starting, and Sen. Cayetano provided.
“I want to thank Sen. Pia. She has the heart of an athlete. I was so grateful that somebody immediately replied to me and gave support. It was a start. I am glad she is back in the Senate and is gonna make an impact [on sports development],” Ms. Norton shared.
Today, Carlos Yulo’s hard work and the various forms of support he received from those who believed in him are beginning to bear fruit. And looking at his latest performances during the SEA Games, it seems like his season has just started and will continue to flourish for many more years.
Yulo has made a huge impression on the Philippine sporting history. The huge Gold medal haul of Team Philippines just days into the SEA Games shows that the new generation of athletes have so much potential in them. As PHISGOC Chairman Alan Peter Cayetano has emphasized many times, the country’s hosting of the Games is not just a one-time event, but a step forward in the country’s attitude towards sports. Besides the economic benefits of a healthy sports tourism industry, further government investment in sports education would cultivate young talents like Yulo.
Yulo’s story confirms the fact that with the proper guidance, support, and encouragement, Filipino athletes can truly excel and be world-class. With the proposed National Academy for Sports, we can only predict how many more legendary athletes will rise to represent our country and carry the flag in the years to come.
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