(KTLA) – Sakura Kokumai, a 28-year-old U.S. Olympic karate athlete, was at Grijalva Park in Orange, California last Thursday when a stranger started aggressively yelling at her out of nowhere. Kokumai said it started off as a normal day at the park, where she frequently works out as she prepares for the upcoming Olympics. Then a man started screaming random things at her.
“He was basically just yelling stuff like, ‘Don’t talk behind my back. Why are you looking at my car?'” she told KTLA. “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.”
She recorded the incident on her phone.
“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.” At first, she didn’t understand why he was targeting her, but then as he got into his car to leave, she heard the racial slurs.
“I was aware about the anti-Asian hate that was going on. You see it almost every day on the news,” she said. “But I didn’t think it would happen to me at a park I usually go to to train. “
Kokumai, who is Japanese American, says there were people around, but most of them ignored it. “One lady did come up towards the end, asking if I was okay,” 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.”
That’s one of the main reasons she decided to share the incident publicly. “I do know the responsibility of having the platform and being an athlete representing the U.S. so I really thought it’s important to raise awareness,” she said. “This is happening. This is real.”
Kokumai says she is still processing what happened and has not reported it to police.