Even on Olympic stage, Asian American women experience racist abuse – On Her Turf | NBC Sports

BEIJING (AP) — Across two pandemic Olympics set in Asian countries, Asian American women fronting the Games have encountered a whiplashing duality — prized on the global stage for their medal-winning talent, buffeted by the escalating crisis of racist abuse at home.
The world’s most elite and international sporting event, which pits athletes and countries against each other, underscores along the way the crude reality that many Asian women face: of only being seen when they have something to offer.
“It’s like Asian American women can’t win,” says Jeff Yang, an author and cultural critic. “Asian American female athletes, like most Asian American women in many other spaces, are seen as worthy when they can deliver … and then disposed of otherwise.”
The issue is playing out at the Beijing Winter Games, the third straight Olympics set in Asia and the second held during the unrelenting global coronavirus crisis — and playing out, too, during a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Here, U.S. snowboarder Chloe Kim and China’s freestyle skier Eileen Gu are the latest additions to the list of American women of Asian descent who have been “It Girls” of the Winter Games, joining icons like American figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan.
When Kim and Gu earned their gold medals in Beijing, it was the perfect bow on professional narratives that have been covered incessantly leading up to the actual event. Their star power and talent made them two of the de facto spokeswomen for the Olympics.
Meanwhile, other Asian American women like figure skaters Karen Chen and Alysa Liu of the U.S. team and Zhu Yi of the China team have also been promoted by their national teams and scrutinized — sometimes harshly — by Olympic fans.
Commentators have mocked Yi for falling in the team event, as if she deserved the mistake after giving up her U.S. citizenship to compete for her ancestral homeland. Others are angry that she “stole” the Olympic spot from an actual China-born athlete.
Even the winners struggle to feel fully embraced in America.
Kim, who won the halfpipe at the Beijing and Pyeongchang Olympics, has revealed she was tormented online daily. She says she was consumed by fear that her parents could be killed whenever she heard news about another brutal assault on an Asian person.
There have been more than 10,000 reported anti-Asian incidents — from taunts to outright assaults – between March 2020 and September 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that gathers data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic.
“The experience of hate is withering, and it takes a huge mental health toll,” says Cynthia Choi, the coalition’s co-founder. “When we think about the Olympics, it’s really incredibly powerful to have taken place in Asia three times in a row. That context is very significant, and to have Asian Americans and Asians representing the United States in these games is more than symbolic.”
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country have endured racist verbal, physical and sometimes deadly attacks for two years now, fueled by the pandemic.
Some perpetrators have based their hate on the fact that the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China. Adding to the mix: former President Donald Trump, who regularly talked about COVID-19 in racial terms.
Gu, the daredevil freestyle skier who placed first in the big air competition, said she’d never been as scared as when a man directed a tirade about the coronavirus’ Chinese origins against her and her immigrant grandmother at a San Francisco pharmacy.
The San Francisco native, fashion model and social media figure has also been criticized with anti-China rhetoric for switching from the U.S. team to the China team. Conservative Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson and Will Cain even dedicated a segment to berating Gu, saying she was “ungrateful” and is “betraying her country.”
Those racially charged denunciations have been called out on social media for being hypocritical. Phil Yu, who runs the popular Angry Asian Man blog, tweeted succinctly: “Oh sure, it’s always ‘go back to your country’ but not ‘go back to your country and win a gold medal.’”
The dichotomy of the Asian American woman’s existence is not limited to Winter Olympians, though. In October, Hmong American gymnast Sunisa Lee said she was pepper sprayed by someone shouting racist slurs while driving by in a car. At the time, she was standing outside with a group of Asian American friends in Los Angeles while filming the “Dancing with the Stars” TV show.
Lesser-profile Olympians from the Tokyo Games like golfer Danielle Kang and karateka Sakura Kokumai spoke about their experiences with anti-Asian hate last summer.
Kang said she’s fought racism all her life and urged for a broader social studies curriculum that could better capture today’s multicultural America.
“I’ve been told to go back to China. I don’t know why they think China is the only Asian country,” said the Korean American athlete. “I also have heard, ‘Do you eat dogs for dinner?’ It’s nothing new to me. However, the violence was very upsetting. But the violence also has been around. I’ve gotten into fist fights. I’ve grown up like this.”
Kokumai, who is Japanese American, was angry to discover that the same man who had harassed her in April with racist slurs also assaulted an elderly Asian American couple.
Equally painful: colleagues’ silence when the incident was reported. She said Japan’s coach called her about it before members of her U.S. team did.
“It was really hurtful that it took so long for my side of the federation to address it,” Kokumai said last summer.
In July, when Lee became the surprise breakout star of the Tokyo Olympics by winning gold in the all-around event and bronze on uneven bars, Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said she felt conflicted about seeing Lee on a pedestal given the way Hmongs have been marginalized.
“I’m really wrestling with this idea that we’re all ‘American’ only when it comes to us being excellent and winning medals for the country,” Choimorrow said. “Asian American women are hyper-visible in ways that dehumanize us and completely invisible in the ways that humanize us.”
The ninth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the early lead and never let go in a 90-79 win over California on Saturday in the inaugural Citi Shamrock Classic in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Fighting Irish’s three-point specialist, Dara Mabrey, led the scoring for Notre Dame with 16 points and six rebounds. Mabrey went 2-for-6 from behind the arc, with her second three tying the program record for career three-pointers made with 274. Making the milestone even more special was that it tied her for first with sister Marina Mabrey, who played at Notre Dame from 2015-2019.
All five Notre Dame starters scored in double digits, including Oregon transfer Kylee Watson (15), last year’s scoring leader Olivia Miles (13 points), Sonia Citron (12) and Maddy Westbeld (12).
Cal sophomore guard Jayda Curry, who earned 2021-22 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors, led all scorers with 24 points and five assists. Mia Mastrov came off the Cal bench to add 10 points.
The triumph served as a victorious homecoming of sorts for Notre Dame’s third-year head coach Niele Ivey, who grew up in St. Louis. As a high school player at Cor Jesu Academy, Ivey led the program to its first Missouri state title in 1995. She went on to play for Notre Dame and was a member of its 2001 NCAA national championship team – which won the title in none other than St. Louis.
And while Cal walked away with a loss on the board, the matchup itself was considered a win by Golden Bears fourth-year head coach Charmin Smith, who also hails from St. Louis. Smith played for local Ladue Horton Watkins High School before heading to Stanford, where she appeared in three consecutive Final Fours with the Cardinal.
The game, which made history at the first live broadcast of a women’s college basketball game on NBC, anchored a weekend of events focused on women’s empowerment and served as an opportunity for both coaches to be an important visible representation as premier coaches in their sport.
The Shamrock Classic marked the third all-time meeting between Notre Dame and Cal, with the first two matchups taking place in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish defeated the Bears in the first round of the 2007 tournament and again in 2012 in the second round.
Notre Dame, who finished last season at 24-9, is aiming for a return trip to the postseason after advancing to the 2022 Sweet Sixteen. The Irish are off to a 2-0 start after winning their season opener Monday vs. Northern Illinois (88-48).
Cal, which finished 11-13 last year, is looking for a rebound season and now stands 1-1 . The Golden Bears next host Idaho at home on Wednesday while the Irish travel to face Northwestern.
SALT LAKE CITY – Everything you need to know about Corinne Stoddard’s physical and mental fortitude as a short track speed skater can be gleaned in a telling anecdote from the Beijing Olympics in February.
Making her Olympic debut on the just the second day of the Games in the women’s 500m heats, Stoddard slipped coming around a corner and shot feet-first into the padding. The blow pushed her right knee up to her face, where her nose suffered a direct blow.
“I literally broke myself,” the 21-year-old says with a laugh, telling On Her Turf that she’s suffered far more severe injuries during her days as an inline skater. “I’ve had worse injuries in inline because it’s like — you fall on the concrete, so your skin gets torn off and stuff, and you still have to race the next race like that.
“I think inline really helped me to not surrender to small injuries. I guess if I was to break any bone at the Olympics, it would be my nose because I can still skate with a broken nose.”

A post shared by Corinne Stoddard (@c0rie815)

And skate she did, less than two hours later when she was included in the semifinal leg of the four-person U.S. mixed relay team. X-rays confirmed later that day that Stoddard had in fact broken her nose and required surgery, but she proceeded to compete the next two weeks with her nose askew. She slapped on a bandage and notched three top 10s, finishing seventh in the 1000m, eighth in the 3000m relay and eighth in the mixed team relay.
“They couldn’t reset it there because I’d have to go to the hospital, and if I went to the hospital then would break the quarantine, and then I would not be able to race,” recalls Stoddard, who’ll compete in the 1500m, 500m and 1000m at the ISU Four Continents Short Track Championships this Friday and Saturday in Salt Lake City. “So I just left it where it was and raced the rest of the days with it just broken and towards the side. And one of my nostrils — I couldn’t breathe through it.”
“It’s hilarious because off the ice, she’s the goofiest girl you’ve ever met,” says teammate and fellow Beijing Olympian Julie Letai ahead of last week’s short track World Cup in Salt Lake City. “She’s just so funny, and she’ll do anything just to make you laugh or make you feel better. …
“Then on the ice, she’s really intense. She knows what she wants; she’s serious about her goals. And you can see in her racing, she knows how to just turn it on, even if she’s nervous before a race. Once she gets onto the line, she’s racing confidently, and I think it’s really inspiring to see someone who can play both sides of the coin.”
In turn, Stoddard is also a student of her fellow teammates, particularly veteran Kristen Santos-Griswold, whom she considers one of her best friends.
“It’s been really nice because she’s a better skater than me right now,” Stoddard explains. “I can look up to her and see what she’s doing on the ice and try to do the same as her, work just as hard as her. Because I can see what she’s accomplishing and know that I can do it, too, if I put the work in like she does.”
“Corie is such a racer,” says Santos-Griswold, who’s also competing this weekend. “Not only does she train hard, but going beyond that, in her racing, she knows how to step it up and be competitive, and she gets the right mindset going.”
Stoddard’s passion for skating started as a young girl in Seattle, Washington, where her grade-school PE class included roller skating. She was hooked. She begged her parents daily to take her roller skating after school, and she eventually caught the eye of the rink owner, who suggested she might like in-line skating. She was just 6 when she started competing and 12 when her mother suggested she also learned to ice skate, knowing that inline was not in the Olympics – but speed skating was.
She quickly moved up through the junior ranks and was just 17 when she moved to Utah to train with the national team full time. Her breakthrough came at the 2020 World Junior Championships, where she captured silver in the 1000m and bronze in the 500m. She made her World Cup debut that same season and earned her first medal – a bronze in the 3000m relay at the Shanghai World Cup.
Stoddard is off to hot start in the 2022-23 season. Last week at the World Cup’s first stop in Montreal, Canada, she qualified for her first A Final and finished fourth, marking a new personal best. She also made the B Final in the 500m and says she feels the confidence building.
“It means that I’m getting closer to my goals and also improving, which is a good sign,” says Stoddard. “Seeing the improvements and knowing that I’m right there with the top girls. Hopefully just a little bit longer and I can, like, start beating them.”
Competition in Salt Lake City runs from 6-10 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday and streams live on Peacock.


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