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Olympic Dreams: Kalei Kaho'okele '11

Hard work pays off for U.S. national kayaking champion!

Posted on October 28, 2015 by Scot Allen

More practice lies ahead to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games

HONOLULU, September 22, 2015: Hawai'i native Kalei Kaho'okele '11 secured three senior men's national championships in kayaking at the 2015 USA Kayak Sprint National Championships, held July 29 to August 1, 2015, at the ARCO Olympic Training Center Chula Vista, CA.

The event is sponsored by USA Canoe and Kayak (USACK), which is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and is the U.S. member of the International Canoe Federation and the Pan American Canoe Federation.

Kaho'okele earned gold medals in the following single-man and doubles kayak events:
• K1 Senior Men's 200 meter
• K2 Senior Men's 200 meter
• K2 Senior Men's 1,000 meter

Kaho'okele, representing Waikiki Yacht Club Ikaika Hawai'i, partnered in the K2 events with Aaron Mullican from the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club in Gainesville, GA. Their K2 wins also earned them the prestigious USACK Beachem and Van Dyke awards as the best senior K2 200 meter and 1,000 meter kayakers in the nation.

Kaho'okele also earned bronze medals in the K1 Senior Men's 1,000-meter sprint and in the K4 Senior Men's 1,000-meter sprint, racing with Ikaika partners Nick Wong, Ethan Jung, and Kai Wilding.

WYC Ikaika Hawai'i is part of the Waikiki Yacht Club Ikaika Waterman's Program, coached by Shelley Oates-Wilding, an Olympic kayaker participating in the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is Kaho'okele's goal.

"Kalei has not only sprint speed, but the endurance capabilities needed to make the Olympic team," explained Coach Oates-Wilding, who has worked with the athlete during the past five years. "I'm simply expanding his raw talent by giving him techniques to help him win."

And win is what Kaho'okele needs to do to make the U.S. Olympic team. In April, Kaho'okele faces the USACK National Trials at the Oklahoma City U.S. Olympic Training Site, OK, where qualification on the 2016 USA Kayaking Team will lead to the Pan American Games at Lake Lanier, outside of Atlanta, GA, in May.

"Coach Shelley is guiding me toward what are the right decisions in my Olympic campaign," said Kaho'okele. "She understands the work behind the scenes to get to what I believe I can do."
For a chance to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in 2016, Kaho'okele needs to go to Europe to train alongside international champions. The training schedule is arduous, with six sessions a day. Not working during his upcoming international training, Kaho'okele needs financial help to cover coaching fees, boat rentals, accommodations, meals, and airfare.

Hoping for assistance by his hometown supporters, Kaho'okele set up a Go Fund Me account at While past donations have helped cover most of his 2015 summer training, any future funds donated will go toward his training from November 2015 to April 2016.

In addition to kayaking, Kaho'okele also excels paddling outrigger canoes and dragon boats. In less than a month, Kaho'okele became a national champion in four more events and a world champion in the dragon boat.

Immediately following the kayak national trials, while in Chula Vista, Kaho'okele competed in the USACK Paddlefest on August 2 and won four gold medals in outrigger canoes:
• OC1 200 meters
• OC1 500 meters
• OC6 200 and 500 meters, in which he was steersman

He also won bronze in the 200-meter dragon boat race in Chula Vista.

Later in August, he competed in the World Nations Dragon Boat Championships in Canada, where he helped the USA Men's Dragon Boat crew win a world championship. They won the gold medal in the Premier Open 1,000 meters, and silver medals in the Premier Open 500 meters and Premier Mixed 1,000 meters.

Kaho'okele grew up paddling outrigger canoes with Keahiakahoe, the Kahalu'u club founded by his uncle Stan Dickson. Paddling with his Keahiakahoe crew, he will be participating in the Hawaiian Airlines Moloka'i Hoe, the 41-mile race across the Kaiwi Channel, hosted by the O'ahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, on October 11.

"I like to paddle to stay fit," said Kaho'okele. "I was paddling for eight years before I started kayaking at Mid-Pacific Institute, when I was 15 years old."

After graduating from high school, the 2010 and 2011 ILH Kayaker of the Year kept his ties with the school's students and is a member of the kayaking coaching team, having served as head coach last year.

Parents interested in enrolling their children in the Waikiki Yacht Club Waterman's Program to train or learn about water sports with Coach Shelley Oates-Wilding can contact her at Youth sailing classes are also offered at the club, led by Coach Guy Fleming. Parents do not have to be club members. Additional information is accessible at

Photos by ACESxp Photography
Article courtesy of the Waikiki Yacht Club