Naomi Osaka, the world number 2 tennis player and a social justice and mental health advocate, lit the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 Games. The 23 year old Haitian-Japanese Gram Slam champion who plays for the host nation of Japan; was revealed to be the final torchbearer, lighting the Olympic flame in a memorable end to the dazzling opening ceremony before an eerily empty stadium. This was star player’s first major public appearance after she took a two-month break for her mental health.
She carried the torch up the pyramid of steps designed to resemble Mount Fuji to kick off the international sporting event; which has been marred by several setbacks and controversies amid a coronavirus surge in Tokyo.
Naomi Osaka speaking openly about suffering from bouts of depression since winning the 2018 US Open.
In an Instagram post, Osaka wrote that lighting the Olympic flame was; “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”
“I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness,” she wrote.
Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother but moved to New York; at the age of 3 while continuing to represent her birth country. She had to give up her US citizenship; before turning 22 to compete for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, NBC News reported.
She is set to play her first match of the 2020 Games on Sunday; against No. 52-ranked Zheng Saisai of China.