American skiing prodigy Kai Owens has made the U.S. Olympic team, giving the 17-year-old athlete the opportunity to return to her birth country of China and compete for America in the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.
Owens was abandoned as an infant at a town square in China before she was adopted when she just 16 months old by a Colorado couple, Amy and John Owens.
Now, the blossoming moguls standout said she’s excited to return to China as she hopes to win a gold medal for Team USA in the freestyle competition that features lots of bumps and requires sharp turns and skills. She’s currently sponsored by Toyota, Oakley and Rocky Mountain Vision Group in Colorado.
‘It becomes full circle when I step off that plane in China,’ Owens told The Associated Press on Friday after it was announced that she made the Olympic team.
‘When my skis touch the snow in China, it’s going to be a really special moment for me because I get to ski in the Olympic Games in my birth country. It’s crazy how life works.’
Owens’ celebration draws parallels to Californian skier Eileen Gu, 18, a fellow Chinese-born athlete, who turned her back on Team USA to compete for China, who is hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing next month.
Kai Owens, 17, of Colorado, will compete for Team US in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games
Owens, right, was abandoned in China and adopted by Colorado couple Jon and Amy Owens, who also adopted a boy from China when Kai was 4
The family lives in Veil, Colorado, where Kai learned to ski and became a natural
Owen’s told TMZ that she had no plans of tracking down her biological parents during the competition, but hopes to return one day after the Games.
‘Right now, I’m mainly focused on competing, but my family and I have plans to return to China once COVID allows us to, to kind of go back to the province that I was born in and maybe do some birth parents research,’ she said.
Owens grew up in Veil, Colorado, where she developed a talent for skiing that has quickly propelled her to fame after becoming the youngest American skier to ever win a NorAm moguls event at age 14 in 2019.
Last year, the teen placed sixth in the World Championships was named the FSI World Cup’s Rookie of the Year after winning gold and leading the U.S. to a podium sweep.
As of mid-January, the International Ski Federation ranked her No. 9 in the World Cup moguls ranking.
Owens became the youngest US skier to ever win a NorAm moguls event at age 14 in 2019. She is pictured at the women’s mogul qualifier on January 13, 2022
Owens said she has no plans to find her biological family during the competition but hopes to return to China one day with her family
She said she’s excited for the games and proud to represent Team US
As eyes focus on the young Olympian, her case greatly contrasts with that of Gu.
The 18-year-old was born and raised in San Francisco where she attended high school. She has also won a place to study at Stanford.
Her mother Yan is a first-generation Chinese immigrant and her father, reportedly American, has never been publicly named.
Despite competing as an American for most of her youth career in freestyle skiing, Gu will this year compete at the Olympics for China and she is now promoting the event for the Chinese, narrating videos online and appearing in commercials.
She made the decision in 2019 at the age of 15, claiming at the time she wanted to inspire a generation of young Chinese girls to pursue winter sports – which are comparatively less celebrated and glamorous in Asia than in the US.
It is unclear now where Gu’s American citizenship stands – China does not recognize dual citizenship and minors under the age of 16 cannot renounce their US citizenship because they are not deemed mature enough to make the decision.
Gu’s reps will not confirm whether or not she has given up her American citizenship, or if China has asked her to.
Gu is pictured with her Chinese mother, Yan. She was born in San Francisco and grew up there. Her father, reportedly American, has never been named publicly
In a recent Instagram post, Gu tagged her partners and sponsors. They include Beats by Dr Dre, Faction Skis, Oakley, Cadillac, Visa and Therabody. She is also sponsored by the Swiss company IWC watches
In 2019, at the age of 15, Gu announced plans to compete for China at the Olympics, and not the US. She said she wanted to inspire a generation of Chinese youngsters at the Beijing Games
While choosing to represent China – where she is known as ‘Gu Ailing’, ‘the snow princess’ and has 1.3million on Weibo – she maintains significant sponsorship deals from American brands like Cadillac, Tiffany’s, Visa, Therabody, Victoria’s Secret and Oakley.
In interviews, she doesn’t seem to recognize or discuss the huge conflict of representing one of America’s longest-standing foes while still cashing in on her celebrity.
‘When I’m in America, I’m American. When I’m in China, I’m Chinese,’ Gu, who speaks fluent Mandarin, said in an interview with Red Bull’s Bulletin recently.
It’s unclear if the brands are aware of the conflict either – or if they are choosing to ignore it.
Her mother Yan, who travels with her on private jets to sporting competitions and fashion shows, did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s inquiries.
It’s unclear what in the way of endorsement deals or sponsorships she has received from Chinese businesses.