Kaien Orion: Olympian Dreams Come True

By Ditch School Staff

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Kaien Orion: Olympian Dreams Come True
COURTESY OF KAIEN ORION Kaien Orion practices a routine. A part-time job at Canyon Gourmet helped him along the way to realize a lifelong dream.
Kaien Orion (both names rhyme with Ryan) first moved to Topanga at age two when his older brother was an active child actor. At four, he began taking gymnastics classes in Santa Monica and, later, Culver City. After moves to Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Northern California, he and his family returned to Topanga in 2017 where he continued his gymnastics training at Gymnastics Olympica in Van Nuys, getting his driver’s license at 14 so his mom didn’t have to do the commute with his two small siblings. For grades 8 and 9, Kaien attended Manzanita School but then transitioned to homeschooling to better support his rigorous training schedule and his aspirations to attend Stanford University. Rather than enroll in a homeschool program, Kaien “unschooled” and took early college courses. He applied to UC San Diego and transferred there as a college junior when he was still a junior in high school. He studied Psychoanthropology with sights on becoming a sports psychologist, but as a gymnastic with Olympic goals, Kaien, now 17, wanted to compete in NCAA gymnastics. Only 13 U.S. universities support men’s gymnastics (compared to a hundred a few decades ago) and he had it narrowed down to four: UC Berkeley, University of Nebraska, the US Naval Academy, whose coaches had invited him on official recruiting trips, and Stanford, a far-fetched dream. With three Olympians on the Stanford team and another half dozen up and coming, ready for 2024, it was a long shot at best. Nevertheless, Kaien continued to email the coaches, sending them videos of his routines and new skills, studying hard in his upper division courses, and rounding out his extra-curriculars with flight lessons and a part-time job at the beloved Canyon Gourmet in Pine Tree Circle. In September, Kaien unexpectedly received an email from Stanford’s assistant coach asking him to send his current transcripts STAT. A few weeks later, Kaien was in the Ford Pavilion gym at Stanford taking photos with the Olympians and World Champions as their newest teammate. Kaien will be attending Stanford in 2022, a lifelong dream realized. With a 4% acceptance rate, even Kaien’s mom, who manages local academic advising groups/homeschool pods Ditch School and Petals, is a bit in disbelief. “Kaien’s persistence and self-confidence paid off and I couldn’t be prouder,” she said. Stanford Men’s Gymnastics offered four spots to top elite gymnasts from around the globe and local Topangan, Kaien Orion, is one of them.
COURTESY OF STANFORD MEN’S GYMNASTICS

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