Lindsey Vonn happy to see mental health conversation becoming "normal" after Naomi Osaka stance, says athletes need not be "ashamed" to speak out

Lindsey Vonn at the Gold Medal Gala
Lindsey Vonn at the Gold Medal Gala
Sudeshna Banerjee

After opening up on her struggles with anxiety and depression, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka received criticism from certain sections of society, and support from others. The latest person to back the Japanese is retired American alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn.

Osaka brought attention to the mental health of athletes when she refused to talk to the media at the French Open earlier this year. The Japanese eventually withdrew from the claycourt Major after playing just one round and went on to take a two-month hiatus from the sport.

The former World No. 1's stand sparked a much-needed discussion on the mental health of athletes, with many of Osaka's peers coming forward with their stories.

Recently, 2010 Winter Olympics gold medalist Lindsey Vonn shared her thoughts on Osaka in an interview with fashion industry trade journal, WWD.

Vonn said she was happy to see that a conversation on mental health is becoming normal now. The 37-year-old went on to recall that when she spoke about it back in 2012, it was still a very foreign concept.

According to Vonn, Olympic legend Michael Phelps and NBA star Kevin Love have been the only athletes to have spoken about the issue for a long time.

“It’s becoming more normal," Vonn said. "It’s great that this is the direction that we are going in. I spoke about mental health in 2012. At that time, it was not talked about. It was very foreign to everyone and it was a big thing. [Cleveland Cavaliers forward] Kevin Love’s been talking about it for a long time, as has [the most decorated Olympian of all-time, swimmer] Michael Phelps.”

Osaka has inspired many of her fellow athletes to open up about their struggles, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.

Vonn noted how the ongoing conversation surrounding mental health has brought a lot of clarity on such an important issue. She emphasized that athletes no longer need to feel embarrassed or ashamed to speak about their struggles.

“Not a lot of people understood why athletes would have mental health issues. Now it’s becoming clear why and that it is a problem,” Vonn said. “Just having that awareness helps a lot and it also helps a lot of people to vocalize their problems [and] their issues.
"And we can all help each other," she added. "That’s the biggest thing with all of this. We can support each other and be open about what’s going on in our lives, and not feel ashamed or embarrassed, which is what I felt for the longest time.”

Naomi Osaka vacationing in Europe

Naomi Osaka has not played since her third-round loss to rising Canadian star Leylah Fernandez at the US Open. The World No. 10 hasn't yet set a date for her return to action, although she recently expressed her desire to compete again.

The Australian Open champion is currently enjoying a vacation in Europe. Having celebrated her 24th birthday in Greece, she is now in Italy as she focuses on recharging her batteries.

Edited by Arvind Sriram


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