Haitian-Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka is out of the Tokyo Olympics after losing to Markéta Vondroušová of the Czech Republic in the third round. Osaka’s surprising and early exit comes after being selected to light the torch during the Olympics opening ceremony.
“This is a very big story,” said Mary Carillo during the Olympic Channel’s live broadcast, as reported by Deadline. “The woman who lit the cauldron on Friday night here in Tokyo is out of the tournament.”
Japan’s representative and former number one tennis player in the world lost in straight sets, 6:1 6:4. “I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,’’ she said according to ESPN. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka added. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before, and for the first year [it] was a bit much.’’
Markéta Vondroušová said Osaka’s loss might be the result of pressure and huge expectations. “It‘s tough for her also playing in Japan and in the Olympics,’’ the athlete said. ”It’s so much pressure; I cannot imagine.’’
Ahead of the Olympics, Naomi paused her career to focus on her mental health. According to her, this wasn’t her first time taking a break. “I‘ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well,” Osaka told reporters. ”I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher. I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.’’
Besides Osaka, another athlete putting her mental health first is Simone Biles. The Team USA gymnast withdraw during the finals after having a rocky start. According to the 24-year-old star, she tried to continue by “fighting all of those demons,” but she felt she wasn’t competing to satisfy herself. “This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself when I came in — and I felt like I was still doing it for other people,” Biles said after the event on Tuesday, as reported by The New York Times. “So that just, like, hurts my heart because doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”
“Today it’s like, you know what, no, I don’t want to do something stupid and get hurt,” she said, referring to her performance on the vault. “And it’s just it’s not worth it, especially when you have three amazing athletes that can step up to the plate and do it, not worth it.”
Biles also referred to Osaka’s documentary, in which she tells her story and shares details of her mental health struggles. “At the end of the day, where we’re human too, so we have to protect our mind in our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” she said. “With the year that it’s been. I’m really not surprised how it played out.”