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Gabby Douglas Understands Naomi Osaka’s Need to Protect Her Mental Health, Admits She’s Still Recovering From Negative 2016 Olympic Coverage

Naomi Osaka‘s dedication to keeping her mental health in check, no matter the repercussions, has been applauded by fellow highly-decorated athlete, triple Gold Olympic medalist and gymnast Gabby Douglas.

The 23-year-old tennis champion has been open about her personal struggles with depression and demonstrated just how far she’s willing to go to remain healthy both inside and out. In May, Osaka announced that she would abstain from press events during the 2021 French Open, then withdrew from the tournament altogether just a day after being fined $15,000 for skipping her first mandatory post-match news conference on May 30.

Gabby Douglas (left) and Naomi Osaka (right) are two athletes whose mental health isn’t for sale. (Photos: @gabbycvdouglas/Instagram, @naomiosaka/Instagram)

Douglas, who is no stranger to the negative side of press coverage, told USA Today’s “Sports Seriously” that she completely sympathized with Osaka’s need to “heal.”

“Every person knows what they need to do to fix themselves, to heal themselves, and everyone’s different,” she stated. “For me, I know being an athlete, we go through so much already. If you need to step back, that’s what you need to do.”

The former Olympian experienced relentless online bullying and negative attention about her hair during the previous Games and admitted that her time in the spotlight “coming from the Olympic Games really did a number on me.” As a result, she has been putting her own mental health first following the 2016 competition.

“Coming from that and really healing my mind and my body and just really these days I fast my phone,” she said. “I’m not on social media a lot because [it] did damage me, damage my personality in a way. So I’ve just been taking years off of social media, off of my phone, and really just kind of getting back to who I am.”

On May 27, Osaka announced that she would bow out of press obligations ahead of this year’s French Open competition in order to save her mental energy for the tennis court, instead of addressing the media, whom she feels “have no regard for athletes’ mental health.”

“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” she wrote. “We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”

Following her French Open withdrawal, Osaka also decided not to participate in the Berlin WTA 5000 tournament, a pre-Wimbledon match. She is currently still set to appear at Wimbledon.

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