The summer Olympic Games are quickly approaching, but Naomi Osaka has been gearing up to win. After pulling out of the French Open in May and publicly speaking out against the media’s negative influence on her mental health, Osaka had taken a break from the court entirely, also withdrawing from the Berlin WTA 500. But the Japanese tennis star is ready to play again, telling Japan’s national broadcaster NHK earlier this week about her plans for the Tokyo Games.
“I am preparing myself little by little so I can be at the top of my game for the Olympics,” Osaka said, per AFP. “Since getting the attention of the world, I’ve always had bouts of anxiety. This is especially the case in the lead up to big competitions.”
Osaka, who is currently ranked as the No. 2 tennis player in the world, will be competing in this summer’s Olympics on her home turf and her own terms — she’ll be participating in press conferences during her Olympic run with careful consideration of her mental health. Osaka’s transparency about her struggles with depression and anxiety, her activism, and her self-advocacy as a professional athlete has shaken up the world of sports, drawing both criticism and support from many — and she’s okay with that.
Starring in the latest video installment of the Stronger Together initiative launched by the International Olympic Committee ahead of this summer’s games, Osaka voices her thoughts on breaking the Olympian mold.
“People might think I’m quiet, different — that I don’t fit the box of what an Olympian should be,” Osaka says via voiceover. “But I’m proof that the definition is bigger than people think.”
The 23-year-old athlete was deemed “shy” early on in her career, but has since become a leader in her sport. Osaka brings unprecedented power and talent to the court, but has established her leadership by making a huge impact off of the court, as well. During the summer of 2020, she penned an op-ed for Esquire, sounding off on her decisions to protest against police brutality and her support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. A few months later, she was named a Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
“I want to inspire the girls out there watching right now, the ones that some people think are too different,” Osaka says in her Stronger Together athlete film. “Too quiet. Too something. And if we don’t fit that expectation of what people think we’re supposed to be… good. That just means that we’re the ones who get to change it.”
The #StrongerTogether video series aims to showcase the athlete’s journey to the Olympic Games and promote a global message of hope, solidarity, and resilience. Along with Osaka, other installments feature professional athletes like Tony Hawk and Usain Bolt.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are scheduled to be held from July 24 – August 8, 2021.
Let us slide into your DMs. Sign up for the Teen Vogue daily email.
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Naomi Osaka’s Withdrawal From the French Open Is a Lesson In Strength and Preservation