Is there anything more glorious, more soul-satisfying, than taking the first bite of your favorite meal?
Being an athlete requires a good amount of sacrifice. Many Olympians adopt strict meal plans and hard training schedules to achieve their athletic goals, which naturally means giving up some delicious food. It takes a lot of willpower to say no to dishes you love, but after seeing their hard work pay off, Olympians are finally able to treat themselves to their most beloved eats.
Here are some of the ways Tokyo 2020 athletes are blessing their taste buds.
Hidilyn Diaz, Philippines
After snagging the Philippines its first ever Olympic gold medal, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz vlogged her first post-victory meal in the Olympic Village dining hall: pizza, sushi, and some udon.
“You’re in Japan so you should eat Japanese food. So when we got to the Olympic Village, I ate sushi,” she told VICE. “I was hoping to go out, but we did not have the chance because of the strict protocols.”
Movement restrictions were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The 30-year-old competed in the women’s 55-kilogram category and lifted a total of 224 kilograms, setting two Olympic records in the process. Beyond the sporting realm, Diaz’s physical prowess has gained significance in other important ways: It was also a symbolic victory for women across the Philippines and an oasis of good news amid the country’s uphill battle against the pandemic.
After a prolonged period of dieting leading up to the Olympics, Diaz told AFP in a post-competition interview that she would now be eating to her heart’s content, including sweet treats like cheesecake and milk tea.
“I mean I’ve been sacrificing my food, and this is the time to celebrate together with the people who are behind me,” she said. “So I’m really thankful I can eat now.”
Loh Kean Yew, Singapore
Singaporean badminton player Loh Kean Yew hopes to become Singapore’s first Olympic medalist in badminton. And you can’t call this a pipe dream—the 24-year-old shuttler has won matches against an impressive number of top players. In the 2019 Thailand Masters, he emerged victorious against one of the sport’s biggest names, Lin Dan, and was crowned champion. He bowed out of the Olympics in the group play stage after an intense match against Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie.
Loh Kean Yew’s meal in quarantine. Photo: Loh Kean Yew
Loh is currently on a 14-day quarantine after touching down in Singapore. Naturally, his first meal came in the form of a packed Asian affair—gravied chicken, veggies, and some brown rice.
“It is good to finally be back to Singapore food. It feels like home,” he told VICE.
What he really wants to eat, though, is a slab of steak.
“I’m looking forward to having a nice, hot, freshly cooked steak once I’m out of this quarantine,” he said. “Steak is a great source of protein for recovery and I eat [it] almost once every week whenever I get to cook at home.”
Yang Qian, China
Chinese shooter Yang Qian won the first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics in the women’s 10-meter air rifle event. Three days later, she took home another gold medal for the 10-meter air rifle mixed team event with her partner Yang Haoran.
At a press conference after winning her second medal, the bright-eyed 21-year-old shared that she was looking forward to feasting on some braised prawns prepared by her mother back home. Braised prawns, a common homemade dish in Asian cuisines, are typically prepared by stewing fried prawns in a flavorful sauce.
“I generally like everything cooked by my mom. After all, it’s cooked by my mother—it has the taste of home,” Yang told reporters at the press conference.
As Yang’s seafood craving gained coverage in Chinese news outlets and social media discussions, her mother guaranteed that braised prawns will most certainly be on the menu when Yang returns to her hometown Ningbo City. In a mother-daughter video call during Yang’s interview with state media outlet Xinhua News Agency, Yang’s mother lovingly informed her: “Mommy has braised prawns ready for you.”
However, it looks like Yang will have to wait at least a few more days before she gets to enjoy her mother’s cooking. Her Weibo post on July 29 revealed that she’s currently quarantining in Beijing.
Muhammed Anas Yahiya, India
As a teen, Muhammed Anas Yahiya was impressed and inspired by Usain Bolt’s lightning speed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Today, the 26-year-old holds India’s national record for the 400-meter sprint, which he set at the 2019 Czech Athletics Championships. For Tokyo 2020, he is taking part in the men’s 4 x 400 meters relay.
Yahiya told VICE that the first thing he’s going to do after the Olympics is to reunite with his family.
“I have been away from my family for more than a year now and so I would like to spend some time with my family before my training schedule starts again,” he said.
As for his post-games celebratory treat, Yahiya is looking forward to enjoying a serious amount of burgers before getting back into the groove of athletic training.
“I will probably eat burgers for all my meals before my diet and training begins,” he said.
Aori Nishimura, Japan
In Japan, where skateboarding is viewed as the pastime of rebellious teens, star skaters like Aori Nishimura are leading the charge to destigmatize the sport.
Having started skateboarding at the tender age of seven, the Tokyo-born Nishimura has been described as a “prodigy” and a “rising star” in the scene. At age 15, she became the first Japanese person to win gold at the women’s skateboarding street at the 2017 X Games. She is currently ranked world No. 3 in street skateboarding.
This year, the 20-year-old represented Japan at the Olympics and came in eighth. This is the first time skateboarding was included in the Olympics. The street category that Nishimura joined sees a panel of judges evaluating tricks performed by skaters over structures like steps, ramps, and railings—all features found in urban landscapes.
When asked about her post-competition meals, she told VICE that she doesn’t really have a go-to dish.
“But that being said, I eat my mother’s homemade karaage (Japanese fried chicken) a lot after competing,” she said.
A bowl of rice and karaage. Photo: Pixabay
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, India
India’s first medal at the Tokyo Olympics was won by weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, who bagged the silver in the women’s 49-kilogram category after successfully lifting a total of 202 kilograms. This was also India’s first-ever Olympic silver medal in weightlifting.
After the 26-year-old declared her desire to eat pizza in a TV interview, she was greeted with a pizza party in India, where she enjoyed a slice alongside law minister Kiren Rijiju.
In support of her passion for pizza, Domino’s promised her a lifetime supply of their pies.
Chanu’s post-Olympics homecoming was also a long-awaited reunion with her family in Manipur, Northeastern India, whom she said she hadn’t seen for two years. In a recent tweet, the athlete was pictured in her family home eating ghar ka khana, typical Indian homemade food like lentil soup, chapatis, and seasoned vegetables.
Chen Lijun, China
During the 2016 Rio Olympics, weightlifter Chen Lijun was forced to withdraw due to leg cramps. Five years later, he returned to claim the gold medal in the men’s 67-kilogram category, lifting a total of 332 kilograms and breaking two Olympic records.
In a heartfelt social media post, Chen thanked his supporters and revealed his ultimate food craving now that he no longer has to stick to his Olympic regimen: hotpot.
Boiling hotpot. Photo: Leacky Chen, Pixabay
“As someone who controls his diet throughout the year, right now I really want to return to China and have a hearty hotpot feast,” the 28-year-old wrote.
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