Woman with Hawaii ties leads Team USA’s sitting volleyball squad to Paralympic Games

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 4:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the action-packed adaptive sport of sitting volleyball, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay may be the best sitting setter in the world.

She scoots across the court on her hands and backside to place the ball where her teammates can spike it.

“My goal is to really push what the setter can do in sitting volleyball. How can I push my position to push the game forward,” she said.

Sitting volleyball is almost identical to standing volleyball, but it’s played on a smaller court with a lower net, and every player has a disability.

“We play on the ground to even the playing field for all of us,” Maclay said.

She was born with clubfoot. Surgery helped, but her left leg is weaker than her right. That didn’t stop her mom — a former college volleyball player — from putting Kaleo and her sister through the paces.

“We did ballet, gymnastics, basketball, softball. Volleyball was actually the last one she introduced us to,” she said.

Maclay started competing in sitting volleyball when she was 12. Tokyo will be her third Paralympic Games. This time Team USA is the defending gold medalist.

“The gold medal was the biggest goal in my whole life. After we won, it was like, ‘What’s your next goal? What else do you want to do?’” she said.

Maclay, her husband and son live in Oklahoma City. They own a coffee shop called Flower & Flour where she sells her signature sweets called Cookies x Kaleo.

They used to live on Oahu, and they keep in contact with family and friends in Hawaii.

“There’s a long list of people,” Maclay said.

At 25, Maclay is in the prime of her playing career. She hopes to also compete in the Paris Paralympic Games in 2024.

“I think with the pandemic, I actually got time to rest, and time to remember why I love volleyball,” she said.

Maclay wears her maiden name “Kanahele” on her jersey, a nod to her Hawaiian heritage. In sitting volleyball, she’s a giant on the court.

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