Yesterday, eighteen year old and Oklahoma City local Kaleo Kanahele was named the USA Women’s National Sitting Volleyball Team athlete of the year. Following the announcement, she was quoted by USA Paralympics as saying, “It is a shock – it is a huge honor,” Kanahele said upon learning of the honor bestowed on her. “Being so young, you don’t see it coming. I’m extremely thankful. Wow. It is awesome.”
Earlier this year, she participated in the World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championship, where she was named the Best Setter of the competition. Kanahele helped her team win the silver medal, their best ever finish in the competition. The silver medal assured Team USA of a place at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio. She played in all 14 international matches that the Americans played this year, sitting out only 3 of the 42 sets played by her team while stacking up 421 kills, 161 errors, and 1,042 attacks. She finished the season with a 250 hitting efficiency and a 0.40 kill percent.
Kanahele made her debut for the team six years ago, at the young age of twelve after taking up the sport when she was nine years old. As a fourteen year old, she was a member of the USA team at the 2010 World Championship where she was unsurprisingly the youngest player on her team’s roster. Kanahele went on to compete at the 2011 Parapan American Zonal Championship, where her team won a gold medal and she was named the Best Setter. In 2012, she helped the Americans win a silver medal at the Paralympic Games in London.
Kanahele graduated from high school this year. She was born with a club foot, and surgery to correct that when she was nine months old did not lead to any improvement. Outside of volleyball, she has played basketball and softball.