Kaleo Kanahele Maclay prepares to serve at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.
Two-time Paralympic medalist Kaleo Kanahele Maclay is competing at the 2018 Sitting Volleyball World Championships in the Netherlands this week with a reputation as one of the best setters and most consistent servers in the world.
But she’s also a mother.
And a florist.
And a student.
And a business owner.
In addition to training full-time and caring for her newborn son Duke, the 22-year-old from Edmond, Oklahoma, is a student at DeVry University, a florist for weddings and owns a cookie-decorating business.
And in the midst of all that, she always manages to come across as cool as a cucumber.
“I have the same 24 hours as the president. I have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé. I have the same 24 hours as these incredible people who do incredible things,” Maclay said. “I think it’s just being intentional with what I’m doing. I’ve actually realized recently that I have more time in my life than I thought. You’re not always limited by time, but just limited by the cap you put on yourself.”
Maclay, a key contributor to Team USA’s first-ever Paralympic gold in the sport at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, competed at the World ParaVolley Women’s World Super 6 last year while pregnant before giving birth to her son and taking the rest of the season off.
Now, as she looks to better her defensive game and her read off the block, her son is her new source of motivation heading into her first major tournament back with the team.
“It’s all changed my career in a healthy way and a good way,” she said. “Sometimes change can be hard, but honestly, it makes me play with more intention because any time I do leave to travel or even just train in the morning, it just makes it that much more meaningful."
Born with a club foot in Oklahoma City, not far from the U.S. Paralympic sitting volleyball training site in Edmond, Maclay made her debut with the national team at just 12 years old, three years after taking up the sport.
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At 14, she was the youngest member of Team USA’s world championship roster, winning a silver medal before going on to take gold the following year at the Parapan American Games. By the time the Paralympic Games London 2012 and the 2014 world championships rolled around, she was a major contributor in both of those silver-medal performances and was named Best Setter at the latter. She was then a key part of the U.S. Paralympic team that made history at the Rio 2016 Games, where the nation claimed its first Paralympic title after defeating favorite China in straight sets in the gold-medal match.
The U.S. entered the world championships Sunday as both the Paralympic champion and No. 1-ranked team, but Maclay insists there’s still plenty of room for growth.
“Although Rio was incredible, I think there’s still so much potential and that we just scratched the surface of there,” she said. “We’ve been able to build on that skill-wise, as well as when it comes to our team atmosphere, and even our coaching staff.”
The U.S. will try to halt China from obtaining a third consecutive world title, while also battling stiff competition in European champion Russia and Paralympic bronze medalist Brazil.
The core group of Maclay’s teammates from Rio remains — including powerful outside hitter and team captain Katie Holloway — with a sprinkle of younger newcomers to round out the squad, such as up-and-coming utility player Jill Williams.
The team chemistry, Maclay believes, is better than ever.
“When you spend so much time around each other, you become a family, so it’s nice to be comfortable around everyone,” she said. “We’re definitely a goofy bunch who love to sing and dance and have a good time.”
Maclay, it appears, is impersonating Beyoncé in more ways than one.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.