A man reportedly targeted US Olympic karate athlete Sakura Kokumai with anti-Asian slurs as she worked out in a California park.
Kokumai, 28 — a Team USA athlete since 2007, and seven-time USA National Champion — was working out at Grijalva Park in Orange on April 1, when a stranger started screaming at her, she told KTLA.
“He was basically just yelling stuff like, ‘Don’t talk behind my back. Why are you looking at my car?’” she told the station of the incident, which she recorded on her phone. “So things like that that made me notice it could be something a little bit, I don’t know, off. So I let it be.”
“Obviously I was scared,” she added. “I think in the video you can see I was kind of laughing, but at that moment, you really don’t know what to do.”
Kokumai, who is Japanese American, said it was initially unclear why the man was harassing her — but as he walked to his car, he started hurling anti-Asian slurs.
“I was aware about the anti-Asian hate that was going on,” the athlete told the outlet. “You see it almost every day on the news. But I didn’t think it would happen to me at a park I usually go to to train.”
She said she was particularly bothered by the fact that witnesses did nothing to stop the racist rant.
“One lady did come up towards the end, asking if I was OK,” Kokumai said. “But until then, as he was walking up, yelling, there were people, but they kind of kept to themselves the entire time,” she said. “I thought, what if this was my grandma or my mom? That scares me.”
“Yes, what happened was horrible, but I don’t know which was worse, a stranger yelling and threatening to hurt me for no reason or people around me who witnessed everything and not doing a thing,” she posted to Instagram
She told KTLA she is still trying to process the incident and hasn’t yet reported it to the police — but wanted to go public about it.
“I do know the responsibility of having the platform and being an athlete representing the US, so I really thought it’s important to raise awareness,” she said. “This is happening. This is real.”
Kokumai will compete as karate makes its debut at the Olympic Games this summer.
“Now I am excited to say that I am training to become the first Karate Olympic Medalist,” Kokumai wrote on her Team USA profile. “This is our first time making a debut to the Olympic games. I am very honored and excited to have this opportunity.”