When Filipino gymnast Carlos Yulo ruled the floor exercise finals in 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, it wasn’t only the Filipinos who jumped with jubilation.
The Japanese were also applauding.
“It was a win for both the Philippines and Japan,” said Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda during a courtesy call Yulo paid Thursday night at the envoy’s residence in Makati.
Born and raised as a Filipino, Yulo flew to Japan in 2016 to try his luck in the sport under a new mentor which later would be coach Munehiro Kugimiya.
With his three years in Japan, the four-foot-11 Yulo has embraced and tailored in himself the culture and attitude of the country.
He is also very fluent in speaking the nation’s mother tongue.
“I am nothing without them (Japanese),” said the young world champion during his short speech at the ambassador’s residence.
Credit where it is due
Yulo may have started his golden journey in the grounds of Manila but it continued when he picked up his passport and soared to Tokyo.
Yulo and his family deeply recognize the assistance handed by the Japanese.
The now 19-year-old gymnast started when he was a gangly seven-year-old who was just in awe watching Filipino gymnasts at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila.
Out of curiosity, he tried it, without any knowledge on how was it really done.
His grandfather quickly noticed a potential in Yulo and brought his grandchild to the federation.
Fast forward, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) gave Yulo free training under the custody of coach Ricardo Ortero.
Four years later, he introduced his name at the Palarong Pambansa — one of the prestigious nationwide sports competitions in the country.
He took home four gold medals.
Then in 2016, Yulo was given the blessing of his parents Angelica and Mark Andrew to leave for Tokyo.
Under his Japanese drill master, Yulo carved his name in history.
He became the first-ever gold medalist of the Philippines in the gymnastics event and the first one to punch a ticket for the quadrennial meet, Olympics.
“Coach Mune (Munehiro) was really one of the reasons why I am where I am right now,” he bared.
Yulo was highly praised by Ambassador Haneda as he has helped further bolster the friendship between the two nations.
The ambassador handed out a certificate of commendation to the young Olympian stating his “outstanding contributions to enhancing mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the Philippines.”
Truly, through sports, Yulo was able to fortify the ever-strong bond shared by the two countries.