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Naomi Osaka wins Best Athlete in Women's Sports ESPY award
The four-time major winner was all smiles as she fought back nerves to give a short but sweet acceptance speech.
Published Jul 11, 2021
After making the hard decision of withdrawing from Roland Garros due to "huge waves of anxiety," Naomi Osaka returned to the spotlight at Saturday night's ESPY awards. Osaka also skipped Wimbledon to focus on her mental health, but the on-going pause in play didn't stop the Japanese player from earning more hardware.
At the annual show that honors top athletes, Osaka claimed the Best Athlete in Women's Sports award. Similar to her bold style of play, Osaka donned a daring striped black and white top with a green skirt from Louis Vuitton, one of the handful of luxury brands the four-time major champion is an ambassador for.
Before heading up to the stage to receive the treasured award, she high-fived each member of her group—one of them was popular music artist boyfriend Cordae. Standing on top of the beautiful rooftop at Pier 17 at the Seaport in New York City the major winner was all smiles as she fought back nerves to give a short but sweet acceptance speech.
"I just really want to not say a long speech because I'm a bit nervous," Osaka said. "I know this year has been really, it hasn't even finished, but it's been really tough for a lot of us. For me, I just want to say, I really love you guys and this is my first ESPYs so it's really cool to be surrounded by all these incredible athletes. I think all of you guys are really cool and I watch some of you on TV so it's really surreal to be here and yeah, thank you so much and I really appreciate it."
In a penned personal essay with Time Magazine, Osaka opened up about her depression, anxiety and navigating through mental health problems under the bright spotlights that never seem to dim. Osaka felt an overwhelming amount of pressure to disclose her symptoms due to the public scrutiny and because the lack of belief from press and Roland Garros.
"In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it's not habitual. You wouldn't have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy," Osaka wrote in Time.
The hard-hitting essay sheds light on Osaka's battle with depression and the treatment of athletes facing mental health issues. She feels uncomfortable being the poster athlete for mental health as she is still figuring things out, but hopes that by talking about these issues it touches people who can relate.
"I do hope that people can relate and understand it's okay to not be okay, and it's okay to talk about it," Osaka wrote. "There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel."
After a few much needed weeks away from the game, Osaka will compete at the Tokyo Olympics. In the Time essay, she revealed her excitement to represent Japan and she hopes "to make them proud."