Naomi Osaka earns Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for raising awareness on social justice and mental health issues

Naomi Osaka won her fourth Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka won her fourth Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australian Open.

Naomi Osaka's achievements on the tennis court along with her off-court activism has led the Women's Sports Foundation to honor her with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. Every year, the Foundation recognizes women in sports who've made a difference using their platform.

The four-time Grand Slam champion stated that she was very honored to receive the award. Osaka mentioned she was inspired by people she watched growing up and how they used their voices to effect change and make a difference.

"When I first heard from Billie Jean King my first reaction was ,of course, I'm very honored to accept this award and you know to even I guess be on people's minds," Osaka said. "I got the courage to speak out, growing up and seeing all the people around me doing amazing things and not having any fear and standing up for what they believe in."

Naomi Osaka even had an inspirational message for the young girls and stars of the future, advising them to give their best and see where that takes them. She expressed hope that they'll be in the same position as her in a few years' time.

"What I would like to say to all the young girls watching tonight, try your best every day, you'll never know where that's going to take you," Osaka added. "I would consider it a game and maybe you'll be sitting where I'm sitting in a couple of years and I can't wait to see that."
“Try your best everyday, you never know where that’s going to take you.” Four-time Grand Slam Champion and advocate, @naomiosaka is this year’s Wilma Rudolph Courage Award honoree.…#WSFAnnualSalute

A look at Naomi Osaka's fight for racial equality and stance on mental health

Naomi Osaka has intertwined her activism along with her tennis.
Naomi Osaka has intertwined her activism along with her tennis.

During last year's Cincinnati Open, Naomi Osaka's decision to protest against police brutality led to the tournament suspending play for an entire day. Later at the US Open, Osaka wore masks in remembrance of those who were killed due to racial injustice in the U.S.

This year, in order to protect her mental health and bring about a change in how media proceedings are conducted, she announced her decision to skip press conferences prior to the French Open. She later withdrew from the tournament following her first-round win.

Osaka's decision sparked a debate on mental health in sports, with notable athletes like Simone Biles taking inspiration from the Japanese to prioritize their own mental well-being.

Osaka is currently on another hiatus from tennis. She has not featured since her third-round loss at the US Open and it is unclear when she plans to return to action.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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