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Naomi Osaka first Black athlete on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover

Naomi Osaka, who took a break from tennis to address her mental health, is the first Black athlete in history to be on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Naomi Osaka, who took a break from tennis to address her mental health, is the first Black athlete in history to be on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

July 19 (UPI) -- Sports Illustrated revealed tennis star Naomi Osaka as one of three cover models for its annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue Monday. Osaka is the first Black athlete to land on the cover of the edition.

Rapper Megan Thee Stallion and model Leyna Bloom also will appear on separate covers of the magazine, which goes on sale Thursday.

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"I'm so proud to be the first Japanese and Haitian woman to grace one of the covers," Osaka said in a video posted by Sports Illustrated. "I feel like that multicultural background is present in all of the things that I do."

Megan Thee Stallion is the first rapper to make the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Bloom is the first transgender cover model for the issue. The theme of the issue is: "Opening Eyes, Speaking Truths and Changing Minds."

"There's no question that Naomi is one of the best athletes in the world, and a cover spot felt obvious," Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor-in-chief MJ Day said in a news release.

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"She's spent her formative years racking up titles and is headed to the Olympics. But we celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice, and mental health."

Osaka, 23, dropped out of the French Open in May due to mental health concerns. She hasn't played since, but plans to return to the court and compete for Japan at the postponed 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

The four-time Grand Slam champion also was named one of the Sports Illustrated Sportspersons of the Year in December for her activism.

"What drew us to Naomi was her passion, strength and power geared toward consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health," Day said.

"She is wholeheartedly dedicated to achieving the impossible and has succeeded time and again. We are so honored to have one of the fiercest female trailblazers in history as one of our 2021 covers."

Former cover models Olivia Culpo, Camille Kostek and Danielle Herrington also are among the 25 women featured in the issue.

Notable Olympians returning to Summer Games

Simone Biles stands on the floor after winning the gold medal in the floor exercise at the Olympic Arena of the Rio Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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