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In Tokyo, Osaka Celebrates 'Greatest Athletic Achievement'

Tennis star tweets gratitude after Olympics' opening ceremony
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2021 2:15 PM CDT
In Tokyo, Osaka Celebrates 'Greatest Athletic Achievement'
Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron during the Olympics opening ceremony Friday.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(Newser) – Naomi Osaka reached new heights Friday, lighting the Olympic cauldron to launch the Tokyo Games. "Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life," the tennis star posted on Instagram after taking part in the opening ceremony. Osaka expressed gratitude in her posts, People reports, and added, "Still trying to wrap my head around what just happened, crazy." Osaka took the torch on the last leg of its journey after accepting it from a group of students. It had also been carried in the stadium by former New York Yankee Hideki Matsui and Japanese baseball greats Shigeo Nagashima and Oh Sadaharu, a doctor and nurse, and Paralympian Tsuchida Wakako. The identities of those given the honor are not revealed before the ceremony.

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Osaka is competing for Japan, where she was born to a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father. She's a favorite to win gold in the Games, per Yahoo Sports, though Ash Barty is the top seed. Osaka's opening match was delayed a day, until Sunday, to allow for her role in the opening ceremony. She hasn't played competitively for more than a month, per Yahoo Sports Australia, after withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon to concentrate on her mental health. Men's star Novak Djokovic called Osaka, 23, "a great champion of our sport" but added that "playing in her own country, without a crowd, obviously, it's not ideal for her." Her match Sunday is against China's Saisai Zheng. (Megyn Kelly took flak for her public criticism of Osaka.)

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