SEAG golden boys Besana, Cruz primed for Asiad | Inquirer Sports
NO CALOY

SEAG golden boys Besana, Cruz primed for Asiad

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 05:10 AM June 25, 2023

Juancho Miguel Besana of University of Santo Tomas is ready to soar to greater heights in the Asian Games.—TEAM PHILIPPINES PHOTO

Juancho Miguel Besana of University of Santo Tomas is ready to soar to greater heights in the Asian Games.—TEAM PHILIPPINES PHOTO

Carlos Yulo would have been a sure medalist in the Asian Games. A gold would certainly be a possibility.

But with the pocket-sized world champion opting out of the event that will be held in China, the country’s lesser heralded gymnastics stars will carry the weight of expectations for Team Philippines in the continental Olympics.

Juancho Miguel Besana and Ivan Cruz are ready for the challenge.

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Both gymnasts have been booked to train in Japan under coach Munehiro Kugimiya, who is also Yulo’s coach.

“It will be a big help once we train there,’’ said Besana, who stayed with Kugimiya in Japan for a month after collaring the gold medal in men’s vault during the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Cambodia.

The 19-year-old BS Sports Science major at the University of Santo Tomas was accompanied by men’s artistic gymnastics head coach Reyland Capellan and Karl Eldrew, the younger brother of the two-time world champion Yulo.

“We learned a lot during our Japan camp. I improved on the execution of my four events and another month or two will definitely boost our scores,’’ said Besana.

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Yulo won three gold medals in the recent Asian championships in Singapore but had to beg off from the Asiad, which will run in conflict with the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

Though the Asian Games on Sept. 23 to Oct. 8 dangles a lucrative incentive where a gold medal is worth P2 million each, it doesn’t carry as much weight in the long run as the world championships scheduled on Sept. 30 to Oct. 8. The Belgium tournament is a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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“As much as I want to redeem myself in the Asian Games after a bad performance in (2018) Indonesia, I chose the world championships for me to qualify for the Olympics,’’ said Yulo.

Top eight

Yulo, the 23-year-old gymnastics star from Leveriza, Manila, only needs to finish in the top eight of the men’s all-around in Belgium to seize a spot in the Olympics. Yulo can also compete in the apparatuses in Paris once he lands on the podium of each event.

His absence will certainly be felt for a gold-hungry Team Philippines out to better a four-gold haul from Indonesia in 2018. But Besana and Cruz will fight to fill the void. And they’re confident the Japan training will do wonders for them.

“We’ve seen how kuya Caloy progressed while training there. Hopefully, we can also improve our skills the way he did,’’ said Cruz, the SEA Games gold medalist in the floor exercise.

According to Capellan, the coaching staff and Kugimiya will decide if they will send a full men’s artistic team to the Asiad or just focus on the apparatuses where Besana and Cruz can podium.

“To be honest, I’m mentally prepared. All I have to work on is the physical aspect where I should be 100 percent when competition comes,’’ said Besana.

“It will all boil down to commitment. We will train hard to get a medal,’’ added Cruz.

Besana and Cruz will likely face a watered-down field in China, as other top gymnasts of the continent are skipping the meet like Yulo, so they can also focus on the Belgium Olympic qualifier.

But Yulo warned against complacency.

“I cannot say that they won’t face any difficulty since the field remains competitive and strong even without the Team A of China and Japan,’’ said Yulo.

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No Filipino gymnast has ever won a gold medal in the Asian Games.

TAGS: gymnastics, Olympics

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