DENVER (AP) – The pearl necklace is a gift. Today, it serves as a reminder, and possibly even a symbol of better things to come.
Amy and Jonathan Owens gave that necklace to their adopted daughter, Kai, many years ago. It’s one of the gifts they give every year to Kai, who they adopted when she was 16 months old. Before that, Kai was raised in an orphanage after being abandoned by his biological parents in a town square in China.
The 17-year-old veteran American skier will return to China in February, likely to be spotted again, but this time, in a much different way.
As Kai prepares for the Olympics in her country of birth, it’s hard to blame her for thinking that a jade necklace could look great paired with a different color – maybe. copper, or silver, or gold.
“Some serious stars fit me here today,” said Owens, who is racing to become the USA freestyle team with four qualifying events remaining. “It was difficult as a child, thinking about being abandoned and abandoned. But I found a great home, a great passion for what I love, and I have a wonderful family. I am certainly grateful and blessed.”
The baby, then known as “Shiqi”, was adopted from an orphanage in Anhui province, a day’s drive from Beijing, and taken to the mountains of Colorado, where her passion for skiing was baby blooms.
In many ways, she’s a typical American teen, complete with a Nike Air Jordan shoe collection and a French bulldog named Mochi. She also embraces her roots, honoring Chinese traditions, and wears a jade bracelet for health and luck.
Her name, Kai, translates to “victory,” and no matter what happens over the next few weeks, she feels as though she’s won.
“When they are delivered to you, it’s a blank slate,” said Amy, whose 13-year-old son Bode (also adopted from China) lives in Vail. “You don’t know what’s going on, what their fertility will be like. We just hope that she turns out to be a ski enthusiast because we are. “
Reports from nannies at the orphanage describe Kai as tough and obstinate, and the child who needs a hug first thing in the morning.
Her mother laughs at that now. It makes sense.
To commit to skiing moguls is to commit to a lifetime of jarring bumps, as skiers attempt to time two perfect jumps between a series of closely spaced moguls and must pass perfectly at speeds up to 20 mph.
But when Kai rushes in, nothing can stop her.
At the age of 14, she became the youngest American to win the NorAm moguls contest. She was honored as the female rookie of the year 2020-21 in the framework of the freestyle & freestyle World Cup awards. It’s still early days, but at least it gives her a chance to join the likes of Jonny Moseley, Jeremy Bloom and Hannah Kearney on the short list of famous American moguls.
However, her most fitting connection may be with another American icon – Toby Dawson.
Dawson, the 2006 Turin Games bronze medalist, received notoriety before the Olympics for his behind-the-scenes story: Living in an orphanage in South Korea, he was guided by two skating instructors Snow was adopted around the age of 3 and brought to Colorado, where he discovered freestyle skiing. His story has dozens of parents-to-be come to claim Dawson is their baby. He had to sort that all out, then use genetic testing to find out who his real parents were.
Dawson’s rubbing with his past also leads to a reconnection with his hometown. At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, he was the coach for the Korean freestyle team. Now, he is leading the team of Chinese tycoons.
His advice to Owens about her biological parents was simple: “Sure, low expectations are key,” explains Dawson. “They will have to regain her trust because there are several reasons why she was put up for adoption. She has been accepted into a great home, just like me, and has great opportunities. ”
Kai doesn’t know anything about “Why?” – why was she left behind? One day, she wants to know the reasons and circumstances surrounding her abandonment.
“I think it’s definitely going to be emotional – emotional and difficult for me to deal with. But I will,” said Kai. “I would definitely tell them, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’”
For decades since the 1980s, China limited most couples to one child – which the Owens family say is as good a guess as any as to why Kai was left in the square city.
They adopted her on October 10, 2005. Her parents call it “Gotcha Day.” In the lead, Amy collected 18 gifts from China to give to her new daughter every October 10.
Five years ago, on “Gotcha Day”, Kai received a jade necklace. These days, she rarely takes it off.
It was a necklace that was lost and found again. It’s been a source of pride and embarrassment for Kai over the years – a memento that represents her adoption journey.
“She’s in an accepted place right now,” Amy said as she and her husband were matched with Kai through the China International Adoption Foundation. “In her young life, it was like, ‘No, I don’t want to do anything with that. I don’t want to learn Mandarin. I don’t want anything with jade. I don’t want anything – keep it away from me. ‘
“Because I think she thought it was a distraction. She is super focused on her sport. So she just wanted to put it aside. But she readily accepted it and realized, ‘I’m traveling away from family and I might need some support from this jade necklace.’
The family plans to travel to China last summer. That would be a way to alleviate some of the anxiety about her ability to return to the Olympics. But restrictions due to the pandemic have affected that idea. So she will probably go to China – without family because of COVID-19 but hardly feeling lonely.
“My parents did an incredible job making sure we knew we were loved,” Kai said. “I think it would be great to go back there.”
By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer
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https://denver.cbslocal.com/2021/12/20/kai-owens-denver-china-olympics/ US figure skater Kai Owens Eyes returns to China as track athlete – CBS Denver