Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas is sharing her support for tennis star Naomi Osaka, after she withdrew herself from the 2021 French Open tournament. In a new interview with USA Today, Douglas explained why Osaka’s decision to exit the tournament made sense, saying she too struggled after the 2016 Olympic Games.
“Coming from that [I focused on] really healing myself, healing my mind and my body,” Douglas shared. “I’m not on social media a lot because social media did damage to my personality, in a way. So [I’ve] just been taking years off of social media, off my phone, and really just kind of getting back to who I am.”
While Douglas maintained that each individual athlete is different, she said if stepping back is something you need to do, you should.
“Every person knows what they need to do to fix themselves, to heal themselves, and everyone’s different,” she said of Osaka. “Being an athlete, we go through so much already. If you need to step back, that’s what you need to do.”
Osaka withdrew from the tournament last month, sharing her decision on Twitter, citing depression and social anxiety. The news came days after she made headlines when she announced she would not be participating in press conferences at the French Open; she wrote at the time that she believed the practice harmful to athletes’ mental health.
“Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Osaka wrote at the time. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”
Serena Williams, Billie Jean King and several other athletes and celebrities have spoken out in support of Osaka’s decision to drop out of the tournament.
Williams — who competed in this year’s French Open — addressed the news at a post-match press conference following her round-one victory, telling reporters, “I feel for Naomi.”
“Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently,” Williams said, according to the Associated Press. “You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.”
King, a 39 Grand Slam winner and icon of the sport, wrote that it is “incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression.”
“Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs,” King continued. “We wish her well.”
It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression.
Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs.
We wish her well.
See more on Osaka in the video below.
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