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Naomi Osaka, Shohei Ohtani headline athletes on Time’s 100 most influential

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 18/9/2021 Jonathan White
a man wearing a suit and tie: Naomi Osaka of Japan walks onto court at the 2020 US Open wearing a mask with the name of George Floyd on it. Photo: TNS Naomi Osaka of Japan walks onto court at the 2020 US Open wearing a mask with the name of George Floyd on it. Photo: TNS

Japanese superstars Naomi Osaka and Shohei Ohtani have been named to Time magazine's list of "the 100 most influential people of 2021" among six athletes to make the cut in the annual list.

Osaka has been praised for speaking about mental health as well as activism for other causes, including Black Lives Matter. The 23-year-old makes her third appearance in a row while MLB's two-way All-Star Ohtani is making his first appearance.

The 27-year-old reportedly becomes only the second baseball player to make the list after the New York Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming of Taiwan in 2007.

Osaka and Ohtani were included in the "Icons" section of the list along with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

This year's Time list also included Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the designer of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, in the list of "Innovators".

Kuma was among several names with links to the Summer Games, including US Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee.

The 18-year-old, who won gold in the all-around, became the first Hmong-American to represent the US at an Olympics in Tokyo this summer.

Lee was named in the "Pioneers" section.

Her fellow US gymnast and Tokyo 2020 teammate Simone Biles was named in the "Titans" section along with Olympic champion sprinter Alyson Felix, who is the most decorated track athlete in US Olympic history.

Like Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open earlier this year and has said that she will take a break from tennis after the recent US Open, Biles pulled out of a number of events in Tokyo this summer over concerns for her mental health.

The athlete contingent on this year's list was rounded out by Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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