Tennis star Naomi Osaka speaks out following a devasting loss and subsequent elimination from her first Olympic run.
On Tuesday, July 27, the 23-year-old lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who is ranked 42nd in the world, 6-1, 6-4, in the third round of the tournament. The No. 2-ranked Osaka, who made headlines earlier this year for her controversial decision to refrain from attending mandatory post-match press conferences, citing her mental health, told The Associated Press that this loss had more of an impact on her than the others she’s faced. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” she said. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before, and for the first year [it] was a bit much.”
The discussion surrounding mental health appeared to take center stage both ahead and during the Olympic Games. The four-time Grand Slam champion withdrew from both the French Open and Wimbledon to prioritize her well-being on her own terms, which included limiting her press time. Osaka had been representing Japan in Tokyo.
Elsewhere at the Games, Simone Biles also exited from the women’s gymnastics team final for the same reasons. Following a failed attempt at an “Amanar” vault during warmups, Biles left the arena with a trainer from USA Gymnastics. Jordan Chiles, a reserve, substituted for the 24-year-old after she left the floor ahead of her uneven bar rotation.
When Biles returned, she unwrapped her wrist and suited up in her warmup gear and continue to cheer on her teammates. Shortly after, USA Gymnastics released a statement on Twitter revealing that Biles had withdrawn “from the team final competition due to a medical issue.” The Ohio native later clarified that statement and explained that she was stepping aside to focus on her mental health, telling reporters that she was “dealing with things internally that will get fixed in the next couple of days.”
In a statement to the media, Biles said that while she felt good physically, “emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment.” She added, “Coming to the Olympics and being a head star isn’t an easy feat, so we’re just trying to take it one day at a time, and we’ll see.”
The most decorated female athlete in the world of gymnastics said Osaka was a massive inspiration for her decision and the reason why she decided to speak out, stating, “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.” She added, “We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.” Biles plans on using Wednesday, July 28, a “mental rest day.”