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Team looking at Japanese psychologist for Yulo

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A botched landing derailed Carlos Yulo’s bid for a medal in the floor exercise in the Tokyo Olympics. —FRANCIS T. J. OCHOA

Carlos Yulo fell short of expectations in the Tokyo Olympics, where the bright gold medal hope failed to bring home a medal.

His handlers hope to fix that by bringing in a sports psychologist.

“Hiring a psychologist for Caloy is very important,’’ Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion-Norton told the Inquirer on Thursday.

There is enough evidence to back that claim.

Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz seized the trailblazing gold medal for the Philippines in Tokyo, with boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam winning silver medals. A third boxer, Eumir Marcial, went home with a bronze.

All the Olympic medalists in Tokyo have one thing in common: A well-stocked team that features coaches, nutritionists and psychologists. Karen Trinidad was Diaz’s mind guru while for the boxing team, it was Marcus Manalo.

Trinidad and Manalo, however, aren’t on Team Yulo’s wish list.

World-class level

“Coach Mune (Munehiro Kugimiya) is already looking for a psychologist for Caloy. We are trying to get a Japanese one,’’ said Carrion-Norton, a board director of the Asian Gymnastics Union.

The 21-year-old Yulo already has the needed skills to perform his routines at a world-class level on all the six different apparatuses—floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bars.

He was the reigning world champion in floor exercise heading into the Olympics and was one of the favorites for the medal there until he flubbed a landing early in his routine and failed to make it to the final.

“I came here really prepared. I did my best,” Yulo said after his performance. “Maybe it just wasn’t meant for me.”

His handlers feel a psychologist may unlock that mystery and push Yulo to even greater heights.

At the moment, Yulo has a full-time Japanese coach in Kugimiya, his mentor since the Filipino accepted an offer by the Japan Olympic Association to train in Japan under a scholarship program beginning 2016.

PSC support

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has already offered support once Yulo forms his team of coaches, which should include a strength and conditioning coach, physiologist, nutritionist, masseuse and a sports psychologist.

For the past 30 years, sports psychology has become a thriving business in countries that prioritize sports excellence.

It was only five years ago that the PSC, through its Medical and Scientific Athlete Services and the Philippine Sports Institute, treated mental toughness among Filipino athletes with utmost importance by working on this area of concern professionally.

Yulo is priming up for the 2021 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships on Oct. 18 to 24 in Kitakyushu, Japan, where the country’s brightest hope in the sport defends the floor exercise title he won in the 2019 edition in Stuttgart, Germany.

“Caloy is now really focused on training with coach Mune for the world championship. It is very important for his quest for gold,’’ said Carrion-Norton.

Yulo, who came close to clinching a medal in the vault in Tokyo after placing fourth in the finals, has set his sights for a gold medal in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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