Natasha Kai is an Olympian. She is a member of the U.S. National Soccer Team and one of the ‘free sprites’ on that roster. Natasha Kai is from Hawaii and she personifies the “hang loose” approach. She has tattoos – many many tattoos – and what seems like a carefree attitude. She is a gifted athlete. On the soccer pitch, she is just plain tough.

At the beginning of the year, the Women’s National Team had a new coach, Pia Sundhage. During the assessment process to select the National Team, Pia Sundhage was unimpressed with Natasha Kai. There was a distinct possibility that Natasha Kai would be left off the Olympic team. Pia Sundhage thought that this young player was not focused and not fit. That is a devastating commentary of any athlete and Natasha Kai could have made it a very personal issue.

Instead, she improved her fitness and improved her play. She impressed Pia Sundhage and was placed on the National Team. And she has played well.

It may be that Natasha Kai’s outgoing attitude off the field contributes greatly to her soccer skills. She is creative and uses her ball skills in imaginative ways. And she is fast – deceptively fast. Natasha Kai seems to have instant acceleration and it seems that she always has that bit of extra speed when necessary.

Natasha Kai challenges defenses. She plays the game at a high energy level and will not be deterred by an aggressive defense. Defenders will try to contain her by being very physical. Her singular focus is to find ways to put the ball in the net. The intriguing question about Natasha Kai is ‘how good is she?‘. She just seems to have such boundless potential, a unique combination of world class athleticism and remarkable toughness. Opposing coaches know about Natasha Kai. They know that she can dominate a game with just her offense. They are hoping that it will not be at these Olympics.

Catherine Forsythe