Naomi Osaka had hoped to win gold on home soil and actually started off on a good note lifting he spirits of country men and women.
But by early Tuesday the poster girl who lighted the Olympic touch had been blown away by a ruthless Czech Republican Marketa Vondrousova in two straight sets.
“Masaka” — or, in English, “No way.” That’s how an incredulous Japan reacted Tuesday to the unexpectedly early loss of Naomi Osaka at the Tokyo Olympics, erasing her chances for gold.
But Osaka whose father is Haitian, has grown to personify a ray of hope for diversity in a nation long linked with discrimination and intolerance for differences. She needn’t lament as disappointment quickly turned to sympathy and solidarity with believe that she can
still win her much cherished gold in future.
“Watching you gave me courage. You don’t have to win a medal. Watching you play is enough for all your fans,” said Yuji Taida, a novelist.
The stock of Japanese tennis racket maker Yonex, one of her major corporate sponsors, plunged Tuesday, just as she lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round. The stock recouped some of the losses but ended down 1.8%.
The disappointment came just four days after Osaka left the nation teary-eyed by running up a Mount Fuji-like set at the National Stadium and lighting the Olympic cauldron with her torch to open the Olympics.
“Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life,” Osaka had written on Instagram about her role in her first Olympics.
Some Japanese said it broke their hearts to imagine how much Osaka had wanted to win the gold for her country.
Japanese media made a point to say Osaka had answered “hai,” or “yes” in Japanese, when asked a question by reporters in Japanese and noted that tears were running down her cheeks.
Shotaro Akiyama, a university student who loves to play tennis, said he hoped Osaka wouldn’t give up.
“The opponent just played a smarter game this time,” he said. “She will have another chance at the gold.”
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