Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Kaleo Kanahele Maclay is a Paralympian, pastor and mom going for gold in Tokyo

Kaleo Kanahele Maclay lives a busy life. She’s a mom to her 2-year-old son Duke, a youth pastor alongside her husband Matthew, owns her own cookie-decorating business, and is the starting setter for the U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team, which she helped win gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

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Maclay was born with a club foot, and a surgery in the first year of her life involved the removal of her calf muscle. The leg was still usable, and Maclay’s mom encouraged her to get involved in several mobile activities to teach her how to adapt. She started playing volleyball at the age of 10, and was introduced to sitting volleyball shortly thereafter. Sitting volleyball involves a lowered net and requires players to stay seated at all times.

“Because I really grew up being fully mobile and [my disability] was congenital, I really learned to use [my leg] like you would normally as any kid would,” Maclay said via the Team USA site. “So I do have a lot of limitations, but it didn’t really limit me to play volleyball or play sports. I just had to adapt to whatever it was.”

The 23-year-old Maclay has been with the U.S. team for nearly a decade, and debuted as Paralympic athlete in 2012, where she helped the U.S. team win the silver medal in London. Four years later, the team captured the first-ever gold medal by a U.S. Paralympic volleyball team. More recently, she also led the Americans to gold at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, where she was named the tournament’s Best Setter.

Attempting to balance all this in her life requires time away from her family, and while Maclay acknowledges being away from her family is hard, she also sees God at work in the middle of it.

“Sacrificing used to scare me, but now it’s an opportunity to see God do MORE!” Maclay posted last year on Instagram. “When I step away for a trip I get to watch from an outside perspective how truly incredible Matthew is as a father! I get to see how our church, family and friends love and take in Duke. Community is a beautiful thing, sacrifice is a beautiful thing but most of all if you are in a season of sacrifice take a step back and look at all God is doing.”

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MY ENTIRE HEART IN A PHOTO!!! A dream that's worth anything tends to take some sacrifice. Sacrificing used to scare me, but now it's an opportunity to see God do MORE! When I step away for a trip I get to watch from an outside perspective how truly incredible Matthew is as a father! I get to see how our church, family and friends love and take in Duke. Community is a beautiful thing, sacrifice is a beautiful thing but most of all if you are in a season of sacrifice take a step back and look at all God is doing 💛 I love you @matthewmaclay thank you for always believing in me and for being willing to make it all work. I love you more now than ever, you're my Bestfriend and my forever teammate!! So thankful for who you are and all you do 💋💋

A post shared by Kaleo Maclay (@kaleomaclay) on

Maclay will appear in her third Paralympics starting Aug. 25, when Team USA’s sitting volleyball team attempts to defend its gold at the Tokyo Paralympics.

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