U.S. Olympian Sakura Kokumai Target of Racist Rant at Park While Training

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVApril 9, 2021

Sakura KOKUMAI of United States competes during Open Paris Karate 2020 on January 26, 2020 in Paris, France. (Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport via Getty Images)
Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport via Getty Images

United States Olympian Sakura Kokumai said she was the target of a racist rant from a stranger at Grijalva Park in Orange, California, per Jaclyn Peiser of the Washington Post.

The Japanese American karate athlete, who is preparing for the upcoming Summer Olympics, was interrupted during a recent training session by a stranger yelling at her. The man escalated his verbal attack, threatening Kokumai before directing multiple racial slurs at her as he got into his vehicle and left.

She recorded the man on her phone and posted it to her Instagram account.

"I was aware about the anti-Asian hate that was going on. You see it almost every day on the news," she told KTLA. "But I didn’t think it would happen to me at a park I usually go to to train."

Kokumai also noted the lack of support from others at a crowded park at the time.

"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 wrote in her Instagram caption.

Anti-Asian violence has been on the rise in the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with close to 4,000 incidents reported over the past year, per Stop AAPI Hate, a group that tracks hate, violence and harassment of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Kokumai, 28, is a seven-time national champion and will be the first American to compete in the Olympics in karate, which will debut this summer.