Why Naomi Osaka’s Opening Ceremony Torch Lights Was Such a Scarce Honor

Nevertheless Friday’s Opening Ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics honored a big array of athletes from close to the world, the event’s closing spotlight landed on Japanese-American tennis star Naomi Osaka. With a beaming smile, the tennis star set the flame inside a blooming flower, perched atop a pyramid shaped to look like Mount Fiji.

On Sunday Osaka, who is currently the world’s No. 2 ranked women’s participant, will be returning to the court docket right after two months away, competing for Japan. It marks the stop of a several tumultuous months for the athlete. In June, she withdrew from the French Open up after her determination not to sit for press appearances frustrated tournament organizers. In a assertion, she reviewed her problems with depression and anxiousness. A month later, she also withdrew from Wimbledon. 

Tokyo organizers’ choice of Osaka reflects her superstar position in her start state, and she stood out as a beacon of hope amid the ultimate torch bearers who ended up picked for their connections to Japan’s new tragedies. Medical doctors and other essential workers who served by means of the pandemic carried the flame, as did youngsters symbolizing the areas that were devastated when the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami killed almost 18,000 individuals in 2011. But the country’s legendary athletes also bought a transform, and just after previous Yankee Hideki Matsui handed the torch, there was just one obvious Japanese athletics icon continue to ready in the wings.

During the ceremony, Osaka posted a clip of songs from the video clip match Soul Caliber to her Instagram tale. An orchestral model of the song accompanied Japan‘s athletes through the Parade of Nations. Later, she shared a photograph of the torch-lighting, with the caption “Me concentrating really hard so I don’t mess up.“

Osaka could be forgiven for the nerves. The torch’s last leg is the Olympic flame relay’s most-seen minute, and one particular of the games’ most-choreographed bits of stagecraft. In the last quarter century or so, considering that Muhammad Ali lit the torch at the 1996 video games in Atlanta, it has generally absent to a host nation’s most august sports activities icons. The past time an energetic competitor was tasked with lights the cauldron was at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, when sprinter Cathy Freeman stayed stoic by way of a couple of minutes of technological complications. She went on to win the 400 meter race, becoming the very first Aboriginal Australian to gain an person gold medal. 

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