Naomi Osaka is already a legend at the young age of 23. She lit the cauldron in the opening ceremonies of The Olympics, representing the host country of Japan. Considering Osaka grew up on Long Island, some may wonder why she’s representing Japan at the games. Gossip Cop can fill you in.
How Do National Teams Work
If an athlete has dual citizenship then they are allowed to choose which country they would like to represent at the Olympic games. Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter allows athletes to change which country they represent if three years have passed between competing for the previous country. Overwhelmingly, athletes choose to represent the country they were born in.
About 6% of athletes chose to compete in a non-native country in 2018. Athletes can choose to do this for numerous reasons, the most common being better access to resources. Some may be locked out of berths by other athletes, so representing another nation opens up a path for the games.
Osaka Got To Choose
None of this applies to Osaka. She’s ranked number 2 in the world for women’s singles, so she could easily represent either country. She was born in Japan but moved to the United States when she was just three years old. Her dual citizenship allowed her to make a choice. In 2019, ahead of the Japanese deadline of her 22nd birthday, she chose Japan.
Osaka said the choice was easy: “I’m playing for Japan. Not to be disrespectful or anything, but I don’t really get where the conclusion that it’s a hard choice for me or anything comes from.” Doing so required her to shirk her American citizenship, which she did without incident.
Why Choose Japan?
Tamaki Osaka, her mother, told the Wall Street Journal in 2018: “We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age. She said Naomi and her sister Mari “have always felt Japanese.” The US did try to recruit Osaka into its national program, but it was already too late. Osaka’s represented Japan her whole life and is elated to do it at the Olympic Games.
The short answer for why Osaka represents Japan is because she’s Japanese, and has always felt Japanese. The long answer demonstrates that there was a window for her to choose the United States, but she simply never wanted to do that. Osaka’s Olympic dreams were dashed in a heartbreaking third-round loss, but she’ll still have many games in the years ahead should she choose to compete.