Japanese head coach Munehiro Kugimiya gave his seal of approval to all six members of the national men’s artistic gymnastics squad, bannered by two-time world champion and Tokyo Olympian Carlos Yulo, at the close of a week-long training camp last Tuesday, May 2, at the GAP gym inside Philippine Sports Commission’s Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Malate, Manila.
Kugimiya was profuse in gratitude as he shook hands and thanked the athletes and coaches who are scheduled to leave today, May 3, for the 32nd Cambodia Southeast Asian Games.
“We would like also to thank Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion, secretary general Weng Bautista and of course, the Philippine Sports Commission for making our training camp and participation of our athletes in the Cambodia SEA Games possible,” Kugimiya said.
Bautista said that Kugimiya wanted media to witness the last day of camp so that the athletes would exert their best while simulating the conditions of playing in front of a live audience in the Cambodian capital.
Kugimiya, however, won’t be in Phnom Penh when the SEA Games gymnastics competitions start on May 6, preferring to hand the reins to assistant coaches Reyland Capellan and Allen Aldrin Castañeda.
“Both Capellan and Castañeda are competent coaches and I am sure that they will be able to handle the job with our gymnasts well,” he noted.
Aside from Yulo, who flew in from Tokyo last week, the other members of the squad are Juan Miguel Besana, Jan Gwynn Tymbang, John Ivan Cruz, Justine Ace de Leon and rookie Jhon Romeo Santillan.
Yulo, who suffered a strained left ankle ligament that forced him to skip the FIG World Cup Series in Cairo, Egypt last month, said he was recovering well after rehabilitation in the Japanese capital.
“Medyo 80 to 90 percent na po akong okay, kaya ng mag-land sa ankle so okay na pong maglaro sa Cambodia SEA Games,” the Pinoy phenom said.
He was also happy to be back training with his teammates as they hope to surpass their silver medal finish in the 31st Vietnam SEA Games last year.
“Inspired po kaming lahat na makuha yung team gold sa Cambodia,” said Yulo.
Due to the “handicapping” system of the Cambodian hosts, however, he won’t be able to duplicate the five gold and two silver medals he won in Hanoi.
On top of the team competition, Yulo will also see action in the individual all-around event, which will determine the two apparatuses he will compete in during the finals depending on the outcome of his performances.
Capellan, a two-time SEA Games gold medalist, said they will make a decision on the matter after the individual all-around event, which also serves as the qualifying competition for the gymnasts who will make it to the apparatus finals.