Quest for gold: Gymnast Carlos Yulo seeks revenge in Paris

Quest for gold: Gymnast Carlos Yulo seeks revenge in Paris
Carlos Yulo prepares for his routine. —PHOTO FROM c_edrielzxs IG

Carlos Yulo entered the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, hoping to become the first-ever Filipino gold medalist in artistic gymnastics. 

He had all the momentum to pull it off, too. After all, Yulo was the reigning world champion in floor exercises.

However, his dreams went up in smoke after committing costly mistakes in the qualifying round. Even worse, those errors occurred in his signature event—the floor exercise—where he was supposed to dominate.

No wonder payback is on Yulo’s mind as he returns to the grandest stage in sports in July.

“For me, Paris is all about revenge for what happened in Tokyo,” said the top Pinoy gymnast. “This time, I’m making sure I’m delivering the performance I’ve been preparing.”

Equipped with newfound confidence and three more years of experience since his disappointing bid in Japan, jitters will no longer be a factor for the two-time Olympian.

“During my first time, I was still an amateur,” he admitted. “I didn’t have experience competing on such a huge stage. I was overwhelmed and lacked self-confidence.”

“But now, I can really say that I can breathe better. I’m not overconfident, but I’m not low on myself. I’m just grounded in reality and I know I can achieve special things if I just prepare right.”

Gaining steam

Carlos Yulo
Yulo with Philippine gymnastics officials —PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILIPPINE OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

Once again, Yulo is set up nicely to have a good showing in Paris. In March, Yulo competed in the Baku, Azerbaijan leg of the 2024 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Series, where he snagged the bronze medal.

“Settling for the bronze in Baku, that was just part of me achieving my goals,” Yulo said. “I just want to keep learning.”

“And in Baku, I was just really doing trial-and-error. It was just a matter of assessing my weaknesses and finding room for improvement.”

The following month, the 24-year-old set his sights on the Doha leg of the same series in Qatar. 

Yulo didn’t need to compete, having already qualified for the Summer Games months earlier. But he wanted to get in as many reps as he could heading into his second Olympics campaign. And so he did and bagged the gold medal in parallel bars and silver in vault in the process.

“My ‘loss’ in Baku really paid off in Doha,” he said. “I was able to show what I was training for. So I was really elated, but I knew I needed to do more work.”

High goals

It’s no secret that Yulo’s strengths lie in the parallel bars, vault, and floor exercise events. Still, he doesn’t intend to just punt on the three other apparatus (horizontal bar, pommel horse, and still rings).

“I’m still going to focus on the three events, where I really have a good chance,” Yulo said. “But I still want to do them all.”

“My main concern is that I’m competing in all six events. So I really need to be consistent in all six.” 

“I think I have a strong chance of winning all-around,” proclaimed the Malate, Manila native. “Others may say I can only succeed in three of them, but I really believe I can win the all-around title.”

Shunning criticism

Controversy has always hounded Yulo throughout his career. Due to his feud with some members of his own family, he is often on the receiving end of harsh public scrutiny. 

Though such circumstances could serve as a distraction, especially for athletes of Yulo’s ilk, the Manileño acrobat admitted that he’d grown numb to its effects. 

“My critics don’t really know me,” Yulo said. “And of course, I’d like my private life to remain private. So the only thing that matters to me is my opinions and how I feel about things.”

“The goals that I want to achieve and the dreams that I have–those are the only things I’m focused on. And, of course, I also think God has set me out on this mission.”

Asked if he uses criticism as motivation, Yulo answered, “Not really. I’m really just focused on my mission.”

“As long as I’m not hurting anyone and encroaching on other people’s rights… As long as I’m happy and I know I’m a good person, I’m alright with that. I can sleep at night.”

“What really motivates me is whenever I commit mistakes. Every time I see little opportunities to improve, that’s what keeps me going.”

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