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Naomi Osaka struggles to deal with the weight of expectation after Olympic exit

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Two of the biggest names competing at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, suffered unexpected exits this week.The former, widely regarded as the greatest gymnast to have graced mat, bar or beam, withdrew from the US women’s team final citing mental health issues and then pulled out of the all-around final.

 

 

And while hope remains that Biles may be back to her majestic best next week in her remaining individual finals, for tennis star Osaka the Games are done. After kicking the whole event off by lighting the Olympic flame in Friday’s opening ceremony, any hope the 23-year-old may have held of repaying her country of birth with a gold medal in the women’s singles bit the dust when

 

 

 

 

she suffered a third-round defeat at the hands of Marketa Vondrousova. Like Biles, Osaka has had her own inner struggles. She withdrew from the French Open earlier this year after refusing to speak to the press. She later opted out of Wimbledon, since revealing she had been battling depression and anxiety.

While some may struggle to sympathise with the plight of a rich and successful young superstar such as Osaka, a new three-part series [Naomi Osaka, Netflix] offers a revealing insight into the demanding and, it appears, often joyless role of being a global sporting icon.

 

 

Filmed over a two-year spell that begins with victory over Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final, the series tells how Osaka and her family left Japan for the USA when she was three-years-old.

 

 

There she and her sister, though barely tall enough to see over the net, were handed rackets and in Naomi’s case she has hardly put one down since.

Osaka talks openly about her life and the expectations and pressures placed upon her shoulders. She speaks of identity and race, is rocked by the death of friend and mentor Kobe Bryant following the basketball great’s helicopter crash and shows touching concern for Coco Gauff, then just 15, after a comprehensive victory over her during the defence of her US Open title.

Gauff would avenge the defeat a year later at the Australian Open.

Stripped of its glitz, this dip into Osaka’s life is at times a troubling one and after the events of the past few days proves once again that, for all the glamour, there is often a price to pay.







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