IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Olympic athlete Sakura Kokumai targeted in anti-Asian rant at park

She said the attack was "horrible," but the lack of assistance from people who saw and heard everything was troubling, too.
Sakura Kokumai, an Olympic athlete and member of Team Panasonic, performs karate moves at a Panasonic news conference during the 2020 CES in Las Vegas
Sakura Kokumai performs karate moves at a Panasonic news conference during the 2020 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 6, 2020.Steve Marcus / Reuters

Sakura Kokumai, an Asian American karate athlete who will compete in the Tokyo Olympics, said she was at a park in Orange County, California, when a man began yelling at her and using racial slurs.

Kokumai, 28, captured part of the incident on her cellphone and shared the video on her Instagram page. She said she usually likes to keep her social media positive but felt it was important to share what happened "so we can protect each other."

In the video, a man yells at Kokumai and calls her a loser. "Go home. Stupid b----," he says.

He then threatens her, saying, "I'll f--- you up."

The karate star told KTLA that she was at Grijalva Park to train for the Olympics when the man started to verbally harass her. She said as he got in his car to leave, he used racial slurs.

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

Kokumai wrote on Instagram that other people were at the park and witnessed the attack, but did not intervene.

"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.

As things escalated toward the end, a woman came up to Kokumai to ask if she was OK "but for the longest time no one cared," she said in her post.

"People would walk by, some even smiled. And I didn’t know what to do," she said. "This could have happened to anyone, if it wasn’t me, someone could’ve gotten hurt."

Kokumai ended her Instagram post by encouraging people to have respect for one another.

The incident is the latest in a string of anti-Asian attacks reported across the country. A recent analysis of police department statistics showed that there was a significant hike last year in crimes against the Asian community across major U.S. cities, driven in large part by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The analysis was released last month by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. It examined hate crimes in 16 of the country's largest cities and revealed that while such crimes in 2020 decreased overall by 7 percent, those targeting Asian people increased by nearly 150 percent.