Masaka. In English, the Japanese word means “No way.” That’s how Olympics watchers reacted Tuesday to the early exits of favorites Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles at the Tokyo Olympics.
Tennis star Osaka lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round.
Osaka’s fans expressed an outpouring of sympathy. Japanese media relayed urgent reports on her loss, with masaka in the headlines.
“Her mother’s motherland. Her dream to stand at the pinnacle, with the rising sun on her heart, was not to be,” reported Sports Hochi, a Japanese daily sports newspaper. Osaka was born in Japan and grew up in the United States.
The disappointment came just four days after Osaka left the nation teary-eyed by running up a Mount Fuji-like set at the National Stadium and lighting the Olympic cauldron with her torch to open the Olympics.
“Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life,” Osaka wrote on Instagram about her role in her first Olympics.
Some Japanese say it broke their hearts to imagine how much Osaka had wanted to win the gold for her country.
Disappointment is a powerful emotion. It is sad to watch someone work hard but not succeed. But a person who trusts in God “will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)—that is, having power to endure trials and disappointments in God’s strength.
Shotaro Akiyama, a university student who loves to play tennis, hopes Osaka won’t give up.
“The opponent just played a smarter game this time,” he says. “She will have another chance at the gold.”
Meanwhile, reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles left the team finals with what USA Gymnastics described as a medical issue.
The U.S. had begun finals on vault, with Biles going last. She was supposed to do an “Amanar,” a vault that begins with a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2 1/2 twists. She seemed to change her mind in mid-air, doing just 1 1/2 twist instead.
The 24-year-old star, considered the greatest gymnast of all time, huddled with a trainer after landing the vault. She exited the competition floor with the team doctor.
Biles returned several minutes later. She took off her bar grips and hugged teammates Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee, and Jordan Chiles before putting on a jacket and sweatpants. Chiles replaced Biles on uneven bars and balance beam.
The Americans had to finish the rest of the competition without her.
USA Gymnastics did not specify the nature of Biles’ medical issue, saying in a statement she “will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.” Later, Biles said that while she felt good physically, she wasn’t in the right headspace to compete. She withdrew to protect herself and her teammates.
Biles won five medals in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. She is scheduled to defend her Olympic title in the all-around final on Thursday. Biles also qualified for all four event finals later in the Games.
In a social media post on Monday, she admitted she felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders and that the Olympics “were no joke.”
(Simone Biles watches gymnasts perform after an apparent injury at the Olympics on July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. AP/Ashley Landis)