U.S. Skier Kai Owens Talks 'Incredible' Opportunity to Return to Birth Country for Beijing Olympics

Kai Owens tells PEOPLE she's training hard to return home to Beijing and win a gold medal for Team USA

Kai Owens
Photo: US Ski and Snowboard Team

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games are less than a month away, and as athletes secure the final spots on Team USA, Kai Owens is getting more and more hopeful about making it to Beijing. See, the already-exciting honor of representing her country comes with a special bonus for the moguls skier.

"I was born in China," the 17-year-old tells PEOPLE ahead of her potential return. "I was adopted when I was 16 months old by my parents."

Owens grew up in Vail, Colorado, with parents Amy and John Owens, where she says she always spent time connecting with her Chinese heritage.

"I learned some Mandarin," she recounts. "It's always been an important part of myself for me. ... And being able to go back [for the Olympics] would be just incredible."

US Skier Kai Owens Lifting
US Ski and Snowboard Team

The road to the Games, which start Feb. 4th, has not been easy. Especially as the nominations to the Olympic ski team loom, coming this weekend at the Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International in Deer Valley.

With a lot of time, sacrifice, and dedication required, the training schedule for an Olympic skier is rigorous. But Owens has the drive.

"I love competing and I just — I really want to win," she tells PEOPLE. "I want to be the best athlete that I can be and perform to the best of my ability."

Part of being the best athlete is taking care of her body, and allocating time for recovery. Lately, she says, she's been "doing some PT."

Elaborates Owens, "Some stretching, just physical recovery. I'm trying to hit everything that I can for meals. I don't know if you've ever seen a nutrition plate but it's just carbohydrates, fruit, veggies, meat. I just make sure I hit all of that in a meal."

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US Skier Kai Owens
US Ski and Snowboard Team

Owens, along with the rest of the other Olympic hopefuls, will have to wait until this weekend to find out her fate. But for now, just thinking about what this trip across the globe means is exciting.

"That would just mean the world to me," Owens says. "I think it would just be a reflection of my hard work and my stars aligning. And I think it would just be a huge deal and so special for me and my community. Just everybody around me and including myself. I think it would reinforce how lucky I am and that I get to do what I love and be good at it."

And her big moment coming in China? Well, she says, that's just "full circle."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3, and the Paralympics, beginning March 4, on NBC.

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