Carlos Yulo ready to move on—and be better
TOKYO—It seemed that everyone—officials, fans—was doling out wads of hope on Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics here, an apparent attempt to refill gymnast Carlos Yulo’s morale.
The well-meaning words of support validated how much Yulo is valued by his supporters.
Not that the world champion, his golden dream punctured by a wobbly landing early in his routine on Saturday night, needed the emotional handouts.
Yulo managed a wide smile after his bid to challenge for the title in the men’s floor exercise, the same event where he was crowned best in the world in 2019, came to a screeching halt. And he looked like someone who had already moved on.
“We can’t change things anymore; we just have to accept [what happened],” he said in Filipino at Ariake Gymnastics Centre. He gave it his best, he swore, but just “maybe it wasn’t meant for me.”
He gamely scrubbed off potential excuses: Pressure? No. Nerves?
“Maybe in the first [apparatus, the rings], a little.” Maybe he was still hurting? He laughed off reports that he was injured during training in the days leading up to the Olympics.
Even attempts to correct the erroneous news, placing the injury over two weeks ago, was wrong.
“It was more than three months ago,” the 21-year-old Yulo said.
“I can’t explain [what happened],” Yulo said. The first landing was shaky—and that’s being charitable. The second one “wasn’t good either,” he said.
Yulo said he had his emotions in check. He admitted that in the past, he would make the mistake of being too hyped in the early stages of competition. There was the tendency to pour everything out early on.
But this time. He paced himself. Eighty percent, he said, and ready to crank it up for the finals.
He had worked for years for this moment. Gymnastics president Cynthia Carrion, who had predicted Yulo to win a gold and two other medals here, said she had watched Yulo stick his landings several times in practice.
When Yulo was warming up, he was nailing his landings. Perfectly.
“I came here really prepared,” he said.
Philippine Sports Commission chair Butch Ramirez offered Yulo a pick-me-upper.
“I told him not to worry,” Ramirez said. “We understand because it happens even to the best athletes.”
“I feel pity for the kid because he was pressured,” Ramirez added. “I saw him sitting [on the floor after his routine]. I could imagine his frustration but Caloy should not worry because he has Paris Olympics to look forward to.”
Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino had already said that one of the best things about this contingent—which has the best chances of ending the Philippines’ gold medal drought in the Games—is that all but one of the athletes are first-timers.
“By Paris, they already know what to do,” said Tolentino.
Yulo seemed to have picked up on that. Even as he was still trying to grasp what had happened, he was fielding questions from foreign journalists about the next world championships.
“Yes, I’ll be competing,” he said. To a couple of Filipino reporters, he said: “This wasn’t entirely a loss. I gained experience.”
When the interview was over, he picked up his bag—and the pieces of his morale, too—and walked away, leaving behind every impression that he will be back.