Naomi Osaka has recently received an abundance of praise from fellow athletes and fans all around the world — not for her impressive performance on the court, but because she opened up about her anxiety and depression and shed light on the importance of self-care. When Osaka skipped the mandatory press conference after the first round of the French Open in May, citing her mental health as a factor, she was fined $15,000 by the organization, resulting in her withdrawing from the competition altogether. Soon after, Osaka posted on her Instagram about the depression she’s experienced since winning the U.S. Open in 2018 and said she would be taking some time away from tennis to focus on her mental health. Naturally, with one of the biggest sporting events in the world just around the corner, many have been wondering whether Naomi Osaka will compete at the 2021 Olympics.
After a year-long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, athletes from around the world will attend the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, from July 23 to August 8. But will Osaka be one of them? In a text message to The New York Times, Osaka’s agent confirmed that while her client withdrew from Wimbledon, Osaka “will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans.”
Born and raised in Japan, this year’s Olympics is especially meaningful for Osaka as she will compete under her home country’s flag. “I think it would take some time to fully sink in, but to be able to win a gold on my country’s soil, knowing the youngest generation is watching — it makes me emotional to know I have the opportunity to make an entire generation inspired and an entire country proud,” she told Business Insider.
Not only has Osaka inspired fans by her performance on the court, but the 23 year old’s honesty has also sparked other athletes to speak out about mental health. Basketball player Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors tweeted his support saying he has “major respect” for Osaka. Similarly, swimmer Michael Phelps — another athlete who has been very vocal about his mental health over the years — told Time that the dialogue Osaka has created is “going to be a game-changer in mental health moving forward.” Osaka has even inspired her younger peers like 17-year-old tennis player Coco Gauff, who said she admired Osaka’s vulnerability. And it wasn’t just athletes; a host of celebrities and even politicians also praised Osaka for her honesty.
It’s safe to say that when the tennis star steps back onto the court in Tokyo, she’ll have a ton of support behind her.