Naomi Osaka Says She Wants to 'Inspire' Girls Who Are 'Too Different, Too Quiet' in Olympics Video
Naomi Osaka has been open about her mental health over the last several weeks, after withdrawing from the French Open in May and Wimbledon in June
Naomi Osaka is continuing to push boundaries.
The tennis superstar is featured in a new video promoting the upcoming Summer Olympics, in which she says she wants "to inspire" other girls who may, like her, have been told they "don't fit the box of what an Olympian should be."
"People might think I'm quiet, different ... but I am proof that the definition is bigger than people think," Osaka, 23, says in a voiceover.
She goes on to say, "I want to inspire girls out there watching right now — the ones that some people think are too different, too quiet, too something."
"And if we don't fit that expectation of what people think we're supposed to be, good," Osaka adds. "That just means we're the ones who get to change it."
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The Tokyo Games will be Osaka's return to tennis after she withdrew from the French Open in May and Wimbledon in June, citing efforts to preserve her mental health. Osaka previously shared that she has suffered from depression since 2018.
Penning a powerful new essay for Time magazine, the tennis pro opened up about putting her self-care first, saying that athletes deserve "the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions."
"In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it's not habitual. You wouldn't have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy," she wrote.
"In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms — frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me," Osaka added. "I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones. I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again. So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet."
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The athlete explained that she is "naturally introverted and [does] not court the spotlight," adding, "I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety."
"I feel uncomfortable being the spokesperson or face of athlete mental health as it's still so new to me and I don't have all the answers," she wrote. "I do hope that people can relate and understand it's okay to not be okay, and it's okay to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel."
Osaka also said, "After taking the past few weeks to recharge and spend time with my loved ones, I have had the time to reflect, but also to look forward. I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo. An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud."
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.