Naomi Osaka inspired me to speak of social problems
Former world champion Nozomi Okuhara says the reason why she became a professional was to take the time to level up for gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Okuhara left her club Nihon Unisys in December 2018 and became a professional in January 2019. She said, “Of course, one of the main reasons is to win the gold medal at Tokyo…There is enough training to raise my level and aim for the gold. I was worried I couldn’t do that.”
Speaking to Biglobe News, Okuhara revealed her Olympic hopes, her plans for the future and what inspires her.
The Japanese playing calendar is about 250 days of the year, counting international tournaments and domestic tournaments. To this Okuhara said; “I really don’t have a day off.”
Benefits of being a professional.
Okuhara: “I have always worked hard even in individual tournaments, I kept the team’s image in mind. In a team, not only the training but life also gets adjusted on the whole. Now that I’m completely on my own schedule, I’m free from stress. But of course, it comes with responsibilities.
“As I have become a professional, the number of people who come in contact with me connect on a deeper level and have become more involved.
“It is easier to appeal to yourself. Of course, there are risks, but I think I’m in a position to express my ‘real self’ in a better way.”
Some players are facing a “loss of identity” due to this Covid-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Olympics, what are your thoughts?
Okuhara: “I thought about that. Like ‘what is the value of sports, and what is my position and value?’ I wondered if I could contribute to the world without someone asking me to do it, and I thought that I was really powerless, and it made me think about various things.
“However, what I have now is only badminton, and that my role now is to be a badminton player.”
Naomi Osaka made me reflect on life.
Okuhara: “I think that Naomi Osaka has a voice and influence because she thinks and acts on her own and speaks her mind…it is very commendable that athletes can act on such issues (Black Lives Matter) on their own. I realized once again that it had an influence on me.
Dealing with negative comments.
Okuhara: “I don’t really care (laughs). Even if I see a negative comment, I think about it and I am very grateful for such a comment and accept it, but after that, I decide for myself how to incorporate it.”
Plans for the future.
She said that she would want to go into management/coaching after she retired.
“I think that badminton still has a lot of appeal to people who watch the game. Overseas, sports are becoming more and more entertaining, and the production quality is really high. But in domestic tournaments, there is more focused on the matches rather than the players.
“The number of online events is increasing due to the influence of Covid-19, but I think it’s best to have people watch sports live. After the pandemic, I would like to see some change in domestic tournaments as my own and take action to change it.
“I want to always be aggressive, even as the times change. I want to actively work on things that only I can do.”