By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at Naomi Osaka’s latest venture, the return of a snowboarding star, and a name to know for next year’s Winter Olympics.
Osaka invests in women’s soccer team
Tennis star Naomi Osaka announced on Instagram that she is now a part owner of the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League. Osaka wrote that she invested in the soccer team as a way to pay it forward as many women invested in her growing up.
“I’m excited to continue the legacy of women empowerment.”
Last summer, Osaka donned face masks with the names of Blacks that were killed at the hands of the police for each appearance in the U.S. Open. She won the grand slam while speaking out on behalf of social justice for Blacks.
Her investment in the women’s soccer league team will help amplify the league and women’s sports.
Osaka was named by Forbes magazine as the world’s highest paid female athlete in 2020. Endorsement deals are a big part of her revenue and it was recently revealed that she is part of Levi’s new “Beauty of Becoming” ad campaign. The series features various celebrities talking about their “journey of becoming.” Osaka indicated in an interview about the new campaign, and she hopes that her story can inspire others. Osaka’s fashion deals include Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Tag Heuer. One day, she aspires to have her own brand. Perhaps a start, she will be consulting with her soccer team about designs for the upcoming year’s uniforms.
She currently sits atop the women’s tennis rankings as she plays in the first Grand Slam of 2021, the Australian Open, this February.
Snowboarder Chloe Kim returns to X Games
She’s back. After taking a year off from competitive snowboarding to focus on her freshman year at Princeton, Chloe Kim returned to the X Games to win her fifth snowboard halfpipe title in Aspen, Colorado during the last weekend of January.
It was 22 months in between competitions for Kim, who actually was in the emergency room for a few days before the competition due to an allergic reaction. In her first run back, she fell on her first big trick attempt of the competition. She remarked on social media later, “Low key popped some ribs out on the first slam.” Ouch. Even for a returning champion, Kim said she was surprised by her performance as she didn’t think she would make the podium. Despite the health issues, Kim returned to form and regained her title.
With the Winter Olympics a year away, look for Kim to reemerge for more competitions while juggling classes at Princeton.
SF-born free skier eyes Winter Olympics for China
San Francisco native Eileen Gu is a name to know next winter as the Olympics head to Beijing, China. Gu, whose mother is Chinese, will compete for China in free skiing. The 17-year-old is coming off a breakthrough performance at the X Games in the half-pipe for skiing.
Gu won two golds in Ski Superpipe and Ski Slopestyle and a bronze in Ski Big Air in her debut at the X Games. It was the first time an individual has medalled in all three events. In competing in this trifecta, Gu beat out all three of the 2018 Olympic slopestyle medalists. She also was the first athlete representing China to win an X Games title. She called her podium appearances at the X Games, “The best two days of my life.”
Gu speaks fluent Mandarin and makes annual trips to China with her mother.
Another side job for the teenager is modeling, as she’s been in the pages of the Chinese Vogue, Harper’s, and Elle. She has more shoots coming up in the U.S.
The decision to represent China instead of the United States may be seen as controversial, but Gu indicated that there were so many great women role models in the U.S. that she felt that she could make an impact on young women’s lives in China. With the free-skiing events being a part of the Winter Olympics, Gu will be one of the host nation’s biggest stars.
Not only is Gu a great free-skier and model, she is also an accomplished piano player and a competitive runner as she helped her high school place second in state championships. She finished high school in three years and is enrolled in Stanford. Gu will go to college in 2022, taking this year to prepare for the Olympics.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.