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Adopted US moguls skier from Vail eyes return to China as Olympian

The Quest of Kai
Posted at 12:30 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 08:55:09-05

DENVER (AP) — U.S. moguls skier Kai Owens is ready to go to China to compete in the Winter Games in Beijing.

Owens was abandoned at a town square in a province of China as an infant. Taken to an orphanage, she was adopted at around 16 months old by a couple from Vail, Colorado.

Now 17, Owens is in the mix to earn a spot on the American freestyle team for the 2022 Winter Games.

Kai Owens
FILE - United States' Kai Owens flies over a jump during the World Cup women's freestyle moguls skiing competition Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Deer Valley, Utah. As an infant, she was abandoned at a town square in a province of China. Taken to an orphanage, she was adopted by a couple from Colorado at 16 months. Now 17, U.S. freestyle skier Kai Owens is on the verge of earning a spot in moguls for the Winter Games in Beijing. It's a return to China she's long thought about. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

It’s a return to China she’s long thought about.

Her name, Kai, translates into “victorious,” and no matter what happens over the next few weeks in the leadup to Beijing, she feels as though she’s won.

She is, in many ways, a typical American teen, complete with a Nike Air Jordan shoe collection and a French bulldog named Mochi. She also embraces her roots, celebrating Chinese traditions and wearing a jade necklace for health and good luck.

At 14, she became the youngest American to win a NorAm moguls competition. She was named the women’s 2020-21 moguls rookie of the year as part of the freestyle & freeski World Cup awards. 

The family had plans to travel to China last summer for a visit. It would’ve been a way to reduce some of the anxiety over her possible return for the Olympics. But the restrictions due to the pandemic nixed that idea. So she may be heading to China — without her family because of COVID-19 but hardly feeling alone.

“My parents have done an incredible job of making sure that we know we’re well loved,” Kai said. “I think it will just be really cool to go back there.”