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Otaku at the Olympics: Athletes who channeled their inner anime fan at Tokyo 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympics has gone down in history as India’s best campaign at the Summer Games, but the event itself transcended beyond the sporting realm and tapped into the rich and unique culture of the host nation.

Japanese animation - popularly known as anime - has a life of its own in Japan but extends beyond the east Asian island. Plenty of Olympians paid tribute to Japan’s Otaku culture by channeling their inner fan while on the grandest stage at the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet.

From background music to signature character stances, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics saw a host of Olympians channel their love for anime.

Alexa Moreno - Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno, who took the stage to qualify for the main floor event, performed a set to one of the famous soundtracks of the acclaimed anime series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. The song used was ‘Demon Slaying Corps’.

Miltos Tentoglou - One Piece

Greek athlete Miltos Tentoglou was one of the two gold medal winners for his country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as he narrowly beat Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria to win the men’s long jump event. However, what raised eyebrows was his arrival as Tentoglou walked out in sunglasses, stood proud before Greece’s flag and recreated Luffy’s Second Gear pose from the long-running anime series One Piece.

Payton Otterdahl - One Piece

Taking a cue from Miltos Tentoglou, USA’s Payton Otterdahl showcased his love for One Piece with a signature "Super" pose of the character Franky, a cyborg in Luffy's pirate crew. The shot-putter yelled ‘SUPER’ while emulating the stance before going on to finish 10th.

The One Piece staff team congratulated Otterdahl with a Twitter post, addressing the 25-year-old as Nakama - which means comrade.

Massimo Stano - One Piece

The last athlete to show his fandom for One Piece was Italian athlete Massimo Stano. The 29-year-old, who won gold in the men’s 20 km race walk event, celebrated with his thumb inside his mouth — the pose One Piece’s protagonist Luffy does when he’s about to up the ante to Third Gear.

Noah Lyles - Dragon Ball Z

Noah Lyles was one of the two athletes, besides Kenny Bednarek, to win USA’s first medals in the 200m race event of an Olympics since Beijing 2008 and he celebrated with one of the most iconic stances in anime history.

The 24-year-old won bronze at Tokyo 2020 and showcased the Kamehameha move of Son Goku from the Dragon Ball franchise to celebrate his result. While some thought it could also be the Hadouken move from the Street Fighter series, Lyles was quick to confirm ‘his move’ on Instagram.

Japan volleyball team - Haikyuu!! 

When Japan's men's volleyball team were playing against Canada, Ran Takahashi sprinted towards the net, faking a spike before passing the ball to team captain Yuki Ishikawa who smashed the ball into the opponent's side. The play had an uncanny resemblance to a scene between anime characters Atsumu and Osamu Miya from the anime Haikyuu!!

The athletes aside, Tokyo 2020 Olympics delighted their in-house and global audience with the use of multiple soundtracks from acclaimed series. Two such instances were when the theme songs of Shingeki no Kyojin or Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba were played during the breaks at the archery events.

Japan’s rich anime heritage was exhibited throughout the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including the closing ceremony.

Author: William Paul

Featured photo: AFP / Glyn Kirk

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