The Olympians: Natasha Kai
by Liz Colville
Natasha Kai joins the Olympic squad in Beijing as the first Hawaiian soccer player to make the Women’s National Team.
Natasha Kai is one of 18 players recently elected to the U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team, which is looking to capture another title in Beijing after their Olympic gold four years ago. Nominated by Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage, the team includes veterans from the 2000 and 2004 Games, as well as newcomers like 24-year-old Kai, who will play forward. Kai was a member of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007 team, as were five others elected to the Olympic squad. The United States Olympic Committee covered Sundhage’s team choices in a June 24 news article.
Kai was by far the top soccer player in Hawaii while at the University of Hawaii, where she was a semifinalist for the coveted Hermann Trophy, awarded by the Missouri Athletic Club. Kai was a well-rounded athlete who lettered in cross-country, basketball, track and volleyball, as well as soccer. She was the WAC Player of the Year twice during her college career. For more of her stats, read her bio on the University of Hawaii Web site.
Natasha Kai’s brief bio on U.S. Soccer’s official site illuminates her substantial progress in 2008. Kai is one of three exciting young forwards on the women’s team, and has scored “a goal every 68 minutes she’s been on the field.” She’s becoming known for her “tremendous speed, one-on-one dribbling ability, world-class vertical leap and dangerous heading ability.”
Kai was born in Kahuku, Oahu, on the north shore of Hawaii, home to some of the best waves in the world. Not surprisingly, Kai is a surfer; she’s also a novice ukulele player. In this YouTube clip from U.S. Soccer, she talks about her “rollercoaster ride” to the women’s national team and her decision to take a year off as a young adult to consider her options. She explains that self-discipline, both during team practice and outside it, is what makes her and the rest of the U.S. team so successful.
Nike, the women’s team’s biggest sponsor, created a site devoted to the “greatest team you’ve never heard of,” with videos chronicling the women’s training and what makes each player unique. Kai says she “brings a little spunk” to the team.
A lot of attention is paid to Kai’s looks, particularly her tattoos (she currently has 19, including an entire sleeve on her right arm). AOL Sports Fanhouse praises Kai and includes a YouTube clip of her performing a dance routine with her teammates while in China during the 2007 Women’s World Cup. Among Kai’s “stats” is her impressive ethnic heritage: Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino and Caucasian, as well as her habit of wearing mismatched shoes.
Zimbio offers some impressive photos of Kai on the field in several key matches for the women’s team, including the 2007 World Cup, where they placed third, and the 2008 Queen Peace Cup, which they won.
Kai and the rest of the women’s squad start their action in Beijing on August 6. Coverage is available on NBC. Check NBCOlympics.com for multimedia and stories about the team.