Naomi Osaka, symbol of the start of the Olympic Games
The Tokyo Olympics kicked off in Japan on Friday with one last strong image: Naomi Osaka was chosen to light the Olympic flame. An honor for the tenniswoman, symbol of diversity in her country and recently victim of depression problems.
Paavo Nurmi (1952), Mohamed Ali (1996), Cathy Freeman (2000), Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima (2016) … These sport icons, among others and privileged few, lit the Olympic flame. Since this Friday July 23, Naomi Osaka is one of them. The suspense was lifted at the end of the Olympic Games opening ceremony from Tokyo. She was the last torchbearer, responsible for lighting the Olympic cauldron.
“The greatest honor of all my life”
The former world number one in tennis (she is currently in second place), dressed in white and red like her country’s colors, appeared at the stroke of 11:45 p.m. local time. Shortly before, Emperor Naruhito officially declared the Games open. All that was missing was the conflagration of the basin to close the show.
Children from the region of Fukushima, devastated by a tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011, handed Naomi Osaka the torch. Then, the 23-year-old climbed steps representing Mount Fuji and lit the Olympic flame.
During the ceremony, the new motto of the Games was unveiled: ” Faster, higher, stronger, together » (« Faster, higher, stronger, together “). Words of unity in a bruised but united world in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. And words that can also correspond to the profile and the course of the Japanese athlete.
« It is without a doubt the greatest sporting achievement and the greatest honor that I will have had in all my life. I have no words to describe my feelings at the moment, but I know that I am currently filled with gratitude and gratitude. I love you all, thank you », Wrote the Japanese on social networks.
Mixed-race champion in an uncomfortable Japanese society
With four Grand Slam titles, with two Australian Open and two US Open coronations, Naomi Osaka has undoubtedly been one of the most brilliant players on the circuit for three years. She also represents diversity: she is what is called a “hafu” in Japan, that is to say a mixed-race person. The tenniswoman, born in 1997 (one year after her sister Mari), is the result of the union between her Japanese mother and her Haitian father.
However, in the land of the Rising Sun, a fringe of society remains cautious, even hostile among the most conservative, vis-à-vis Japanese with foreign origins. This non-acceptance was at the origin of the departure of the family for the United States at the beginning of 2000. Seeing Naomi Osaka light the Olympic flame, two decades later, is not trivial.
The quest for a historic first gold medal
The champion, who will participate in these first Olympics, could have a successful summer after several very difficult weeks. Naomi Osaka had a hard time during the last Roland-Garros tournament. Eager to preserve her sanity, she refused to speak to the press, then abandoned the tournament. The Japanese also had to give up participating in Wimbledon. Her agent had indicated that she needed ” take time for herself, with her friends and family ».
This empty passage had revealed to the eyes of the world the depression and anxiety problems from which Naomi Osaka suffers. However, the player had specified that she would not miss these Games for the world. Of course, it is committed on several different fronts, such as preserving the mental health of top athletes. But Naomi Osaka remains above all a formidable tenniswoman. After this unusual opening ceremony, she will return to the courts for a clear goal: to become the first Japanese gold medal in tennis.
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