Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka is apparently not Japanese enough to light the Olympic cauldron, as far as one Australian journalist is concerned.
Fanning the flame: In his article for The Australian, titled “Burning question: How Japanese is Naomi Osaka?”, writer Will Swanton claimed the Tokyo Olympic committee “got it wrong” by having Osaka light the symbolic torch during the Games’ opening ceremony on Friday.
- The piece, which Swanton claimed “isn’t a criticism of Osaka,” juxtaposed her selection to that of athlete Yoshinari Sakai, who lit the flame in the 1964 Games.
- Swanton noted that Sakai, a Hiroshima survivor, was a fitting symbol to the “growing up” of Japan following the events of World War II.
- In contrast, the writer considered the 23-year-old athlete a mere “blow-in” as she flew from Florida to participate in the Games.
- Swanton wrote: “Osaka was three years of age when the family moved to the US to live at Long Island, New York. Osaka has been there ever since. If these were State of Origin eligibility rules, she’d be wearing a US jersey at these Games.”
- Swanton acknowledged Osaka’s pride in her Japanese heritage and identity but argued that the four-time Grand Slam-winning athlete “carries dual passports and describes herself more as a citizen of the world.”
- Osaka renounced her U.S. citizenship in 2019 in her bid to represent Japan at the Games, NextShark earlier reported.
- Swanton also cited Osaka’s alleged lack of connection to the Japanese fans, describing her as a “multicultural, multiracial, Japanese-Haitian-American woman with a wonderful mix of bloodlines in her veins.”
- In the end, the writer offered several alternatives to light the Olympic flame, including local baseball star Sadaharu Oh, the 2008 Japanese softball team and judo gold medalist Tadahira Nomura. He also said “a doctor or a nurse” would be a better option than Osaka.
Achievement and honor: Osaka, who has long dreamed of representing Japan at the Olympics, called the Olympic cauldron lighting moment “the greatest athletic achievement and honor” she will ever have.
- “I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now, but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness,” she wrote on Twitter.
- While Osaka mostly grew up in the U.S., she has been representing Japan in international tennis tournaments.
- Osaka’s decision to disengage with media duties to preserve her mental health earlier this year earned mixed reactions from fans and the press.
- “You can never please everyone,” she wrote in an essay with TIME. “The world is as divided now as I can remember in my short 23 years.”