Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron at Tokyo opening ceremony
World No. 2 tennis player Naomi Osaka, who represents Japan, was the last Olympic torchbearer from the Tokyo Olympics, lighting the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony on Friday night.
The flame was initially lit during a ceremony in Olympia on March 12, 2020, but as a precaution against COVID-19, the Greek part of the torch relay was canceled. After keeping the flame lit for a year due to the postponement of the Olympics, the Olympic Torch Relay began in earnest on March 25, 2021 from the J-Village National Training Center in Fukushima Prefecture and then passed through the 47 prefectures in Japan for a period of 121 days before reaching Tokyo on July 9.
The 23-year-old Osaka, who has a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, has represented the host country in international competition since the age of 14. She was born in Japan but moved to New York with her family at the age of 3.
In order to represent Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, its first Games, Osaka had to renounce its US citizenship before turning 22.
When Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics, a 19-year-old Japanese man named Yoshinori Sakai, who was born outside of Hiroshima just hours after the atomic bombing, served as the torchbearer who lit the cauldron.
Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam champion, with her first 2018 US Open title, when she became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. After winning two Slam tournaments in late 2018 and early 2019 – the US Open and the Australian Open – Osaka became the first Asian tennis player to be ranked No.1 in the world.
In 2020, Osaka became one of sport’s foremost advocates for social justice, wearing a mask bearing the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijiah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice at each of his matches during his championship run at the US Open.
Its international influence has resulted in major commercial success. From May 1, 2020 to May 2, 2021, Osaka broke its own record for the highest-earning year for a female athlete, receiving $ 60 million in sponsorships ($ 55 million) and prizes combined, according to Forbes. She first established the mark – which exceeded a Serena williams record – from May 2019 to May 2020, when Osaka made $ 37 million.
Ahead of these Olympics, Osaka took a two-month tennis hiatus after pulling out of Roland Garros following her decision not to give press conferences at the tournament – one which she said was for her health. mental. The choice sparked public reaction from Grand Slam organizers and sparked debate in the sports world about the athletes’ obligation, or lack thereof, to the media.
Osaka starts its Olympic tournament against the 52nd Zheng Saisai on Sunday.