THEY couldn’t be with Team Philippines in the 19th Asian Games in China but that didn’t stop gymnastics superstar Carlos Yulo and golf ace Bianca Pagdanganan from giving glory to the country in a different front and timezone.
Mr. Yulo opted to play in the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium over the Hangzhou Asiad and made it all worthwhile by qualifying for the Paris Olympics in his pet event, floor exercise, there last Sunday.
Ms. Pagdanganan, who previously won the team gold with Yuka Saso and Lois Kaye Go and got an individual bronze for herself back in the 2018 AG in Indonesia, stuck with her LPGA campaign and claimed a career-best third place in Arkansas.
Dottie Ardina placed a fighting 10th in the same tournament, making it a double celebration for Pinay golfers.
If not for scheduling conflicts, these achievers would have helped carry the fight for the Philippine contingent in Hangzhou.
For Mr. Yulo, it was a precious Olympic qualification on the line in the world meet.
Not even a disastrous stint in the individual all-around, where he stumbled in the still rings and vault qualifying sessions and missed the finals, can dishearten Mr. Yulo from his mission to earn a return trip to Paris in floor exercise.
The 23-year-old dynamo ranked third in the floor qualifying sessions with a score of 14.600. Along the way, he clinched a ticket to next year’s Olympiad as the “highest-ranked eligible athlete” in the said event.
Mr. Yulo was the only one among the floor exercise finalists who haven’t qualified through the team and all-around pathways and thus took the 2024 Games slot up for grabs in the said event.
The two-time world champion has now made it a two-man Philippine Olympic crew, following his Tokyo 2020 batchmate, EJ Obiena, who made the grade in pole vault back in July.
Over in the US, Ms. Pagdanganan cleared the way for a much-needed Top 3 finish in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship with a sizzling seven-under 64 closing round at the par-71 Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.
Ms. Pagdanganan fired two eagles in the last nine holes en route to a 15-under 198 and her second Top 10 finish of the season.
The 25-year-old Olympian, who finished four behind rookie winner Hae Ran Yu of Korea (194 after a final 66) and one adrift second placer Linea Strom of Sweden (195 after a 64), earned $112,775 (P6.4 million).
Compatriot Ms. Ardina likewise produced a strong closing round of 67 for 201 overall. It was the first Top 10 of the season for Ms. Ardina, who banked $37,933 (P2.1 million).
Both Mmess. Pagdanganan and Ardina are trying to keep their LPGA cards next season and they needed a big push during this 54-hole tourney.
Meanwhile, Saso closed out 68 to finish at 203 and tie for 23rd. — Olmin Leyba