By Jan Paolo Pasco

Team Philippines' Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan continued to prove that they are forces to be reckoned with in artistic gymnastics as they racked up another three gold medals in men's and women's individual apparatus finals during the 31st Southeast Asian Games on Sunday at the Quan Ngua Sports Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam.

PHOTO: CNN Philippines

Fresh from his gold-winning performance in the men's individual all-around event, Yulo added two more gold medals in his pocket after ruling the men's floor exercise and still rings events in a historic fashion.

The victories made the 22-year-old gymnast the first three gold-medal winner of the country in the regional biennial meet.

The two-time world champion also successfully defended his SEA Games gold medal in his pet event, floor exercise, as he delivered an outstanding 15.200-point performance to dominate seven other elite gymnasts, including fellow Filipino John Ivan Cruz.

Singaporean Terry Wei-an Tay and Vietnamese Khang Trinh Hai finished with silver and bronze medals, respectively, courtesy of 14.033 and 14.000 points, while Yulo’s compatriot Cruz barely missed the podium after scoring 13.833 for fourth place. 

Following his triumph in the floor exercise in the same day, the Filipino superstar gymnast also reigned supreme in men’s still rings as he chalked up 14.400 points, way better than Vietnam’s home bets Nguyen Van Khanh Phong and Le Thanh Thung’s outputs of 13.800 and 13.500 respectively, who ended up with silver and bronze.

The win also paved the way for the Philippines’ 18th gold medal and Yulo’s third in the artistic gymnastics events. 

However, the Philippine bet failed to make the podium finish in the pommel horse event after crashing out to sixth place with only 11.733 points. Yulo won silver in the same apparatus back in the 2019 edition in his home ground. 

“I’m very happy, I didn’t expect to win. But I’m proud of my performance,” said Yulo in Filipino.

On the other hand, Finnegan displayed her brilliance anew in the artistic gymnastics as she once again struck gold in women’s vault apparatus finals, a day after she spearheaded the Philippine contingent in clinching the gold in the women’s all-around event.

 The Fil-American gymnast garnered an average score of 13.133 points after two attempts at her routine, edging the Vietnamese Thi Quynh Nhu Nguyen and Indonesian Rifda Irfanaluthi’s scores of 13.033 and 12.817 points respectively, to secure the triumph. 

Finnegan’s compatriot Ancilla Manzano fell short of the podium finish after settling for fifth place with a score of 12.150.

The former US national team member, meanwhile, came up short in the uneven bars event after wounding up fifth with 11.100 points. Fellow Filipina Lucia Gabriel Gutierrez tallied 10.333 points to settle for eighth spot.

Yulo, Finnegan, and other Filipino gymnasts will continue to assert their dominance in the rest of individual apparatus finals to add more gold medals on Monday, May 16.