Sports

Olympic Karate Star Sakura Kokumai Victim of Vicious Anti-Asian Hatred While Training for Tokyo Games

Sakura Kokumai, a 28-year-old Asian American karate athlete who will be participating in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, was a target of an anti-Asian rant while working out at an Orange County, California, park last week. Kokumai was simply training at the park when a man unknown to her began verbally assaulting her with racial slurs. She captured part of the expletive-filled incident on her cell phone.

Who is Sakura Kokumai?

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JANUARY 06: Martial artist Sakura Kokumai performs during a Panasonic press event for CES 2020 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on January 6, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs January 7-10 and features about 4,500 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 170,000 attendees. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

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Sakura Kokumai is a 28-year-old karate champion set to take part in the Tokyo Olympics this year. She was born in Hawaii to Japanese parents and is a seven-time national karate champion. Kokumai is ranked fifth in the world.

According to The Washington Post, Kokumai is the only American among 40 karate athletes to qualify for the Summer Games. She competes in kata, a detailed choreographed pattern of martial arts movements made by an individual. Those movements are judged on speed, strength, rhythm, and technique.

This is the first year the sport has been included in the Olympics. Kokumai won the gold medal in the women’s individual kata event at the 2019 Pan American Games held in Lima, Peru. In 2012, she won a bronze medal at the World Karate Championships in Paris, France.

Sakura Kokumai verbally attacked while talking on her phone

Sakura Kokumai went to a park in Orange County, California, to work out in preparation for her participation in the Tokyo Olympics this year. While she was taking a break and on her phone, she was verbally assaulted with racial slurs by a man wearing a navy t-short and orange shorts. Kokumai captured part of the incident on her phone and posted it on her Instagram account.

“You’re a loser. Go home, you stupid b*tch,” he said to her. “I’ll f*ck you up.” The man walked toward here and shouted, “don’t be looking at me behind my back.” During the rant, Kokumai said she hadn’t done anything, while the man continued his tirade, yelling “I’ll f*ck you up. I” f*ck your husband up or your boyfriend.”

Kokumai said as the man drove away, he was hurling anti-Asian slurs at her. She admitted to KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles that she was scared. “Obviously I was scared,” Kokumai said. “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 was also stunned nobody came to her aid

Sakura Kokumai was very surprised to get verbally attacked in the park despite the recent rise in racism toward Asians. “I was aware about the anti-Asian hate that was going on. You see it almost every day on the news,” she said to KTLA. “But I didn’t think it would happen to me at a park I usually go to train.”

She was also surprised that nobody came to her aid while the man was verbally harassing her in front of others. “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.”

On her Instagram post, she also made reference to the lack of help she got. “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.