Naomi Osaka savours her ‘greatest achievement’ after lighting Olympic cauldron at Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony

Tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony (Picture: Getty)

Naomi Osaka savoured her ‘greatest athletic achievement’ after having the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games.

The four-time Grand Slam tennis winner followed in the footsteps of a long line of iconic atleted who have been chosen to light the Olympic cauldron ahead of the Games.

Former football star Michel Platini was given the privilege in 1992, legendary heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali in 1996 and Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman in 2000.

Japanese tennis player Osaka won her first Grand Slam at the US Open in 2018, and triumphed at the Australian Open just a few months later.

The 23-year-old lifted the US Open for a second time in 2020 before adding a fourth Grand Slam to her CV at this year’s Australian Open.

Osaka pulled out of the French Open in June after the controversy over her decision not to speak to the press at Roland Garros. She later revealed she had battled mental health issues for many years.

The world number two decided to miss the 2021 Wimbledon Championships but will hope to win an Olympic medal at the Tokyo Games, with her first singles match taking place on Sunday.

The Olympics were declared open after a spectacular opening ceremony (Picture: Getty)

After lighting the Olympic cauldron at a spectacular and poignant opening ceremony, Osaka said: ‘Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honour I will ever have in my life.

‘I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness. Love you guys thank you.’

The 2020 Olympics opening ceremony took place in an empty stadium and no supporters will be present throughout the Games due another coronavirus outbreak in Tokyo.

Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, said: ‘Today is a moment of hope.

‘Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined but let us cherish this moment because finally we are all here together.

‘This is the power of sport, the message of solidarity, peace, and resilience. My fellow Olympic athletes, you had to face great challenges on your Olympic journey.

‘You did not know when you could train again, if you could see your coach tomorrow, if your teammates would be with you for the next competition, or if this competition would take place at all.

‘You struggled, you persevered, you never gave up. And today you are making your Olympic dream come true. You are true Olympic athletes.’

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