10 unexpected things at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

From athletes being offered free flights forever to celebrity lookalikes.

Stacey Tay

When she’s not writing articles, you’ll find her at home using her sewing machine.

Published: 3 August 2021, 5:37 PM

With this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics being particularly different from previous games with no fans allowed on site, it still remains a special one for athletes and sports fans alike. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most surprising moments that took place during Tokyo 2020!

1. 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya becomes Japan’s youngest gold medal winner

Japanese Momiji Nishiya won the gold medal in the women’s street skateboarding competition on Jul 26. This is also the first women’s street skateboarding competition held in the Olympics.

“I welled up in tears because I was beyond happy,” Nishiya said after her win. 


More than half of the women in the final competition were teenagers. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/TOKYO 2020


The other two medal winners are also teenagers. The silver medal went to 13-year-old Rayssa Leal from Brazil with 16-year-old Funa Nakayama from Japan taking bronze.

2. Team Singapore’s horse is named after 'Friends' character, Joey Tribiani

Having won four championships, Caroline Chew is Singapore’s first equestrian to represent Singapore at the Olympics along with her 17-year-old horse, Joey Tribiani. 

With only two weeks to prepare, Caroline qualified for the Olympics after surpassing the minimum requirement at the Dressage Grand Prix in Le Mans, France in June.

Tokyo 2020 : TeamSG's Caroline Chew arrived at her home back in the UK (from Tokyo) last night. It's been an eventful...

Posted by SG Sports TV on Friday, 30 July 2021

However, to safeguard horses’ welfare, she was disqualified from the Individual Dressage event as the judges found a cut on Joey’s lip. 

Despite this unfortunate event, Caroline was grateful for the opportunity and that this competition will continue to motivate her and Joey for future championships.

3. Philippines’ first Olympic gold medallist becomes national hero

30-year-old weight-lifter Hidilyn Diaz earned the nation’s first-ever gold medal. She lifted 127kg, and beat China’s Liao Qiuyun in the women’s 55kg class. 

To show appreciation to the athlete who brought glory to the country, numerous companies have offered Diaz various incentives. 

“Yes I will eat a lot tonight,” Diaz said in an interview after winning the medal, spurring many brands to offer her free food for the glory she brought her country.

Cha Tu Chak, a bubble tea store, offered a year’s supply of premium cheesecake milk tea as they heard cheesecake and milk tea were her favourite foods.

📣 We heard she loves CHEESECAKE and MILK TEA so 🤷‍♀️ 1 YEAR FREE MILK TEA FOR OUR CHAMP! We honor the courage and...

Posted by Cha Tuk Chak on Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Kitchen Joes, a restaurant in Diaz’s hometown, is also offering her free food permanently. Burger Jones has also offered her free burgers for bringing victory to the country.

Diaz is also Philippine AirAsia’s first ‘forever flyer’ to receive free flights for life.

4. Hong Kong’s ex-TVB child star Lawrence Ng is now an Olympic fencer

21-year-old Hong Kong fencer, Lawrence Ng Lok Wang, was recognised by viewers at the Olympics for his acting appearances in more than 30 TVB dramas. 

He starred as the younger versions of the main characters such as Kevin Cheng’s Cheung Sing-hei in 2008’s Last One Standing, and Edwin Siu’s Lo Wai-shun in 2015’s Brother’s Keeper.


After his last acting role in 2015, he fully focused on fencing, having taken it up at eight years old. PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY NEWS, FACEBOOK/INTERNATIONAL FENCING FEDERATION


With the Tokyo Games being his first Olympic event, Lawrence competed in the men’s foil team competition on 1 Aug.

5. Austrian mathematician wins the gold medal in women's road race cycling

On Jul 25, Austrian cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer clinched gold in the women’s cycling road race at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

Not only was this her Olympic debut, the 30-year-old also became the first Austrian to win an Olympic medal in cycling in the last 125 years.

🇦🇹🏆 Anna Kiesenhofer 🇦🇹🏆 🥇 Women's Road Race Tokyo 2020 Olympics Champion #CyclingRoad | #Tokyo2020 | #Olympics

Posted by UCI on Sunday, 25 July 2021

Aside from cycling, she has a PhD in applied mathematics from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona. She graduated from University of Cambridge with a master’s degree in mathematics prior to that. 

Kiesenhofer was the only cyclist from her country and entered the race without a professional team. She managed to beat 2019 world champion Annemiek Van Vleuten from the Netherlands by 1km.

6. Bruce Springsteen’s daughter, Jessica, debuts with USA’s Show Jumping Team

Jessica Springsteen, daughter of rock and roll musician Bruce Springsteen, has joined the four-member equestrian jumping team at the Olympics. 

Ranked the third best show jumper in the United States, Jessica previously won gold in the team jumping event at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Jessica Springsteen, daughter of Bruce Springsteen, set to make Olympics debut in Tokyo

Jessica Springsteen, the 29-year-old daughter of music icon Bruce, will be one of four equestrians representing the U.S. at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Posted by CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell on Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Growing up, the Springsteens owned a farm in New Jersey where Jessica discovered her love for horses and began taking riding lessons.

The riders and their horses will take on 12 to 14 obstacle courses that are approximately 1.4m to 1.65m high. 

Jessica and the US team will be competing in individual jumping from 3 Aug to 4 Aug. The team jumping will be held from 6 Aug and 7 Aug.

7. Susan Boyle’s surprise performance at the opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Olympics was kick started by none other than Britains’ Got Talent iconic contestant, Susan Boyle. 

She showcased her vocals with her own rendition of Wings to Fly by The Doves which stunned fans worldwide.


Fans were excited and surprised to see Susan Boyle during the opening ceremony. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TWITTER


Organisers of the Tokyo Opening Ceremony said that the song is known by all generations, and is popular among sports fans. Susan Boyle’s life changing performance on Britains’ Got Talent went viral in 2009 with her cover of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Misérable

8. Simone Biles withdraws from the Olympics for mental health reasons

24-year-old US Olympics gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s team gymnastics final gold medal event to focus on her mental health. 

She experienced the “twisties” which are the sudden inability for a gymnast to make the proper spins that can lead to serious injuries. This prompted her to drop out of the team competition after receiving a low mark in her opening vault.


While training before the individual competition, Biles admitted that she was not landing the moves that she was supposed to perform which affected her state of mind. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/USA GYMNASTICS


“We have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” Biles said. 

The USA Gymnastics team said in a statement that they supported her decision wholeheartedly.

9. Fiji rugby men sing traditional song after winning gold

The Fiji men’s rugby team brought victory to the country with their second ever Olympic medal with a 27 – 12 win against New Zealand. 

The team are back-to-back champions after winning gold in Rio five years ago. This year’s achievement was far more special as they had spent five months away from their families due to the COVID-19 travel bubble.


The team’s emotional outpour comes after weathering adversities such as arriving in Japan on a freight flight hauling frozen fish. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TWITTER


After singing the national anthem during the medal ceremony, the emotional team performed the hymn E Da Sa Qaqa – which translates to ‘We have conquered’. 

10. Olympic participants recognised as celebrity doppelgangers

Taekwondo Olympian, Julyana Al-Sadeq from Jordan has gained attraction on social media for her physical resemblance to pop singer Lady Gaga.

Al-Sadeq has previously won gold medals during the 2018 Asian Games and the 2017 Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games. She was competing in the Taekwondo Women’s Welterweight 57- 67kg category when footage of her started circulating on social media. 


Neither Lady Gaga nor Al-Sadeq has commented on the viral posts. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TWITTER


Al-Sadeq was not the only lookalike spotted at the Tokyo Olympics. Photos of 19-year-old Hong Yuanxi, a male Taiwanese Olympic gymnast have also gone viral as netizens pointed out similar physical features to television host Dee Hsu’s daughter.


Posted by 小S 徐熙娣 on Sunday, 25 July 2021

With a side-by-side comparison of the two, Dee Hsu posted the photos on Facebook calling him her daughter’s older brother. 

The post has surpassed 30,000 likes and hundreds of comments.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics games have been nothing short of exciting and emotional for our local athletes

Catch the rest of the games for free on Mediacorp, Singtel TV, Singtel TV Go and on the CAST mobile application.

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