CALOY Yulo and Nesthy Petecio arrived to a heroes’ welcome on Tuesday night after winning the world championship in their respective fields over the weekend.
Philippine sports officials welcomed the two new sports heroes at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport before bringing them to the Century Park Hotel where they were joined by EJ Obiena, who recently qualified for the 2020 Olympics in pole vault.
The two world champions couldn’t help but feel emotional about the journey they took in which they almost quit their respective sports.
Yulo, 19, said he was on the verge of quitting gymnastics due to the years of hard training he spent in Japan and a subpar performance in the 2018 Asian Games where he failed to land a medal amid heightened expectations.
“Nung unang taon ko doon, first three months, okay naman po siya. Pero nalulungkot na ako nung mga sumunod na araw. Nami-miss ko na ‘yung pamilya ko. ‘Yung mga trainings ko, hindi po siya masaya. Sobra pong hirap. Araw-araw naiiyak ako.
"Hindi ko siya kaya. Susuko na ako. Sinabi ko na rin sa coach ko na magku-quit na ako kasi sobrang wala po, parang tae. Hindi maganda ‘yung sobrang training ko. Paulit-ulit, hinihintay ko na lang matapos,” said Yulo.
The 27-year-old Petecio was more or less in the same boat after she suffered a stinging defeat to a Chinese foe in the same Asiad that she felt she should've won.
“After po talaga nun, sobrang na-down ako nun. Sinabi ko sa sarili ko, baka hindi para sa akin ‘yung boxing. Nag-gold ako ng apat na sunod-sunod para i-prepare ko ‘yung sarili ko sa Asian Games tapos ganun na nangyari.
"Down na down ako nun. Naka-graduate na rin naman ako ng associate course sa University of Baguio. Kaya ko naman mag-work.”
But the two athletes were able to rise above the adversity.
“Kinakausap ako ni coach Boy (Velasco, national women’s team coach) at coach Reynaldo (Galido, member of the coaching staff), pamilya ko. Inisip ko ‘yung purpose ko kung bakit ako nag-boxing. Binalikan ko inspirasyon ko which is ‘yung pamilya ko,” said Petecio.
For his part, Yulo said his Japanese coach Munehiro Kugiyama encouraged him to talk to his parents.
“Sinabi ko sa kanila na nahihirapan na ako. Gusto ko na mag-quit. Sinabi ni mama sa akin, 'Ikaw bahala pero sayang ‘yung pinaghirapan mo. Sinimulan mo na, bakit hindi mo pa tapusin.' Nag-simba kami kinabukasan at nag-sink in sa utak ko na ang dami ko na pinagdaanan,” said Yulo.
Yulo and Petecio made the country proud in a weekend to remember for Philippine sports. Yulo won a historic gold medal in the 49th Artistic Gymnastics World Championship when he ruled the floor exercise, while Petecio became the first woman since Josie Gabuco in 2012 to win a gold medal in the Aiba Women’s World Championship.
“Sobrang nakaka-stress pala maging atleta,” said Yulo with a smile.
During the press conference, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William Ramirez also announced that Yulo and Petecio will receive P1 million as incentives for winning the world championship.
Ramirez also bared Yulo and Petecio are scheduled to have a courtesy call at Malacañang with President Duterte on Wednesday afternoon.