'We need to protect each other.' Olympic hopefuls say they've experienced anti-Asian hate

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Nancy Armour, USA TODAY
·2 min read
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Not even athletes who represent the United States are spared the anti-Asian hate that has become so prevalent throughout the country.

Sakura Kokumai, who has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in karate, and Yul Moldauer, a favorite to make the men’s gymnastics team, both said Wednesday they have been the targets of racism in recent weeks. Kokumai was born in Japan, and Moldauer was adopted from South Korea as a baby.

“I'm not trying to get anyone to say sorry or the pity or anything towards me,” Moldauer said during the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s media summit. “I'm just trying to bring awareness for everyone, because I know I have a platform and I can use it.”

Hate crimes and attacks on Asians and Asian-Americans have “significantly increased” since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Former President Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric – he blamed China for the virus, and used slurs to describe the pandemic – contributed to the rise in anti-Asian racism, according to an ADL study published last month.

Yul Moldauer is a favorite to make the Olympic team in men's gymnastics this summer.
Yul Moldauer is a favorite to make the Olympic team in men's gymnastics this summer.

“The spike in physical violence against Asian-Americans across the nation was whipped up in large part by bigotry and conspiracy theories that grew online, fanned by national leaders," including Trump, the ADL said.

“What happened to me was nothing compared to what we see on social media right now -- people getting hit, people get slashed, people getting killed,” said Kokumai, who said she was verbally harassed and called racial slurs while she was training about a week ago.

“We are, in a way, being targeted (by this) violence and harassment and discrimination,” she added. “So again, I just wanted to raise awareness that this could happen to anybody, and we all just need to be there for each other and protect each other.”

RELATED: Chloe Kim speaks out about experience with Asian-hate comments

Moldauer was driving last month when a woman cut him off. At the next red light, she told him to “Go back to China!” In an Instagram post after the incident, Moldauer noted that he wears the letters “USA” when he competes for the United States.

“It hurts to know that I have to represent people like her,” he wrote.

But Moldauer tempered that Wednesday, saying he’s focused on the Americans who don’t harbor hate like the woman who racially harassed him.

“My job is to represent this country no matter what,” he said. “The reason why I spoke out was just to bring awareness and just kind of make people realize that things aren't going well.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Olympic hopeful Yul Moldauer uses platform to stop anti-Asian hate