History maker Carlos Yulo exclusive: Larger than life in gymnastics 

The Filipino gymnastics world champ could be the first to win Olympic gold for his country. Find out what gymnast inspires him. 

By Scott Bregman

Carlos Yulo knows what's at stake.

Tokyo 2020, scheduled for July 2021, will be the Philippines’ 23rd appearance at the Summer Olympic Games. Their athletes have collected a total of ten medals, including two at Rio 2016, but never a gold.

Now, the gymnastics star has a chance to end that drought.

“It would mean a lot to me because I practise really hard, every single day, especially right now,” Yulo told Olympics.com in an exclusive interview about his chance to win gold. “I don’t have time to waste. It really would mean a lot.”

Yulo has been a history-maker for his country in gymnastics. First, he claimed a bronze medal on floor at the 2018 Worlds, the first medal for his country of any colour at the event.

A year later, at the most recent Worlds in 2019, Yulo was golden.

“I think I got lucky,” he said with a laugh. “When I competed at the World Championships, I was not really thinking about the medal. The experience was more important than the medal for me.”

Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion is hoping that experience will translate into history once again in Tokyo.

“If he performs the way he’s training right now, he can win that gold (in floor exercise),” said Carrion, according to the Manila Bulletin. Carrion also said she believes a medal in the vault final and a place in the parallel bars final are also real possibilities for Yulo.

“I’m praying that he doesn’t get injured in the next 19 days. I advise him to strengthen his mind and emotions because skill-wise, he’s already gotten it. If he does that, and of course, God willing, we can win the gold in floor, maybe a silver in vault and a finals spot in parallel bars,” Carrion said.

The 21-year-old’s accomplishments have thrust him into the spotlight with more than 150,000 followers on Twitter, interview requests and more.

“I could say that I’m a shy boy when it comes to normal life,” said Yulo. “But in terms of gymnastics… it’s really different when I’m doing gymnastics.”

When he’s doing gymnastics, he is larger than life, executing flawless gymnastics and pushing the envelope of the sport. In 2019, Yulo executed a stunning full-twisting double layout in his gold medal-winning routine.

He’s since worked to upgrade that tumbling pass, showing a layout double-full out at last year’s All Japan Championships. On social media, he has even shared video of an impressive triple back flip.

That the Games are in Tokyo, where he moved to train in 2016, is full circle.

He first started dreaming of the Games after watching Uchimura Kohei win the first of his two Olympic all-around titles in 2012.

“When I saw the 2012 London Olympics… they’re all good, but there’s one gymnast I couldn’t forget: Kohei Uchimura,” said Yulo. “His movement, it’s really on a different level. No one can do it the same as him.”

His time in Japan has allowed him to meet his idol, Uchimura, who Yulo says has invited him for trainings and evaluations over the years.

He’s also taken a lesson from all the Japanese athletes:

“They don’t give up easily. They’re definitely going to find their way to complete the tasks every single day,” said Yulo. “That one for me is very important, that I get to see that and experience that.”

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