Young gymnast vies in world tilt

Southeast Asian Games bronze medalist Breanna Labadan, tipped to follow the footsteps of world champion Carlos Yulo, will compete in the 39th Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria from 14 to 18 September.

Labadan, 17, is the first Filipino to participate in the world competition, according to Gymnastics Association of the Philippines secretary general Rowena Bautista.

Labadan earned a spot in the tournament after placing seventh in the women’s all-around in the 13th Rhythmic Gymnastics Asian Championships in Pattaya, Thailand last 23 to 26 June.

“We’re not expecting much from her since she just joined her first World Championships and she’s facing seasoned veterans there. If she does get a podium finish, we’re happy but we’re already proud of her in qualifying,” Bautista said.

To prepare against more experienced foes, Labadan, accompanied by coach Dora Vass, is currently in a two-week training camp in Baku, Azerbaijan that will end this week.

The pride of Butuan City in Agusan del Norte already gained experience in competing internationally entering the World Championships.

Last year, Labadan snagged the silver medal in the women’s all-around in the Gracia Cup 2021 in the Women’s 2006-A category and was even the top gymnast in the Liptov Cup 2019 at Liptovsky, Slovakia.

She also finished 52nd among 136 participants in the 1st FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics Junior World Championship in 2019 in Moscow where Anastasia Simakova of Russia won the title in the women’s all-around.

Labadan will find Yulo’s performance a tough act.

Yulo made heads turn the first time he took part in the 2018 World Artistics Gymnastics Championships where he placed third in the men’s floor exercise.

The following year, he won the gold in Stuttgart, Germany.

He would then go on to win another gold in the men’s vault in the 2021 World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan along with a silver in the men’s parallel bars.

 

Despite her relative inexperience, Bautista said she’s confident that tournaments in Europe have prepared Labadan well.

The field will be led by Russian gymnast Dina Averina, the defending women’s all-around champion.

“She has been competing against Europeans already. In their training camp, they may have been gym hopping in Baku so it could be a collaborative effort,” Bautista said.

“She has gained a lot of confidence in competing in Europe. She will be facing the Russians that she competed against in her club tournaments.”

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