It hurts when you lose. It hurts more when you lose in your pet event. It hurts the most when the loss hurts a nation’s hopes built for years.
That’s the bitter truth in the ongoing Olympic journey of Carlos Yulo, now in its third year of suspenseful anticipation.
Yulo, from Malate, Manila, was 19 years old when he stunned the world by winning the floor exercise and crowning himself world champion in Stuttgart, Germany in 2019. That earned him an automatic ticket to the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics—a feat that fueled all the more our near-century yearning for a first-ever gold in the quadrennial Games.
But before the Olympics could blast off on July 23 amid the Covid-19 scare in the Land of the Morning Sun, Yulo wowed his countrymen by capturing two gold and five silver medals to become the most bemedaled athlete in the 2019 Manila SEA Games that we won overall by a runaway margin.
One of those victories came in the floor exercise—but, of course.
Then Yulo flew back in no time to Tokyo where he had been honing his skills all this time under a Japanese coach that treated him like his own son.
Just days before Yulo’s event, officials, led by gymnastics head Cynthia Carrion, were oozing with optimism.
“He’s all set to make history,” said Carrion. “We’ve been shielding him from any kind of distraction, including withholding a cash windfall (P30 million at least) that goes with a gold victory.”
And then it happened. Yulo, 21, bombed out in the floor exercise. One wobbly landing got him eliminated, scoring a shocking 13.566 points for a bizarre 44th finish for the reigning world champion.
All hell broke loose from there, Yulo salvaging only the vault by finishing sixth out of eight qualifiers, as he got the boot in the rings, parallel bars, horizontal bar and pommel horse.
“It hurts, it really hurts,” said Yulo. “I came here fully prepared. I did my best. I don’t know what happened.”
Only the gods of the game would know what happened.
“Maybe, it just wasn’t meant for me,” Yulo concluded.
But there’s still the gold to be had in the vault contest set on Aug. 2.
The vault is not Yulo’s pet event but what the heck. The megabuck dream is still alive. Move on.