Olympians React to Klete Keller’s Involvement at Capitol: ‘Terrible Reflection on the Sport’

Klete Keller
Klete Keller. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Olympians React to Klete Keller’s Involvement at Capitol: ‘Terrible Reflection on the Sport’

As Klete Keller’s role in the U.S. Capitol insurrection became more clear, the reaction among the swimming community was shock.

As more details came out, and Keller surrendered to authorities, facing federal charges, the reaction grew.

For many among the swimming community the reaction was sadness, for others it was anger, and for many it was simply disbelief.

USA Swimming released a damning statement in response to Keller’s actions.

Several Olympic swimmers have told Swimming World that they have been trolled on social media, especially if they had any photos involving Keller from their days as Olympic teammates.

But whether the reaction was sadness, anger or disbelief, the clear consensus is Keller’s actions were unacceptable, especially wearing a U.S. Olympic team jacket.

“It’s a terrible reflection on the sport and the Olympic team,” Gary Hall Jr. told the Washington Post. “Great care is taken to remove any political agenda from Team USA. For him to drag that in by wearing the sacred colors was especially painful. … What any protester did in storming the Capitol is a despicable act. I want to be very clear: I condemn that behavior. Having said that, my heart is broken. I feel such a heavy weight knowing that he was involved. Because somewhere underneath all that mess, he’s a decent guy that his teammates care deeply about.”

Keller was a two-time Olympic gold medalist on relays, including an anchor spot in 2004 as he helped the U.S. knock off Australia.

Keller had a public fall from Olympic glory as his life spun out of control, leading to a divorce, and eventually homelessness, living out of his car.

He had been publicly a staunch conservative and Trump supporter and his interest in guns was well-known among the swimming community.

Not shocking because his friends knew him to be a staunch conservative, and post social media posts confirm this, though his social media accounts have been deleted or deactivated.

Keller took responsibility for his own plight, in a USA Swimming article in 2018.

“Within a matter of a few years, I went from Olympic gold medalist to husband, homeowner, guy with a series of sales jobs … and father of three, and I had a really difficult time accepting who I was without swimming in my life,” Keller said in the article, which has been removed from the USA Swimming site. “I really struggled with things. I didn’t enjoy my work, and that unhappiness and lack of identity started creeping into my marriage. … In swimming, you have to be selfish to a large degree to be successful. But when you are a husband and father, you have to be more selfless — and I wasn’t.”

“He was a lost soul, long before the Trump thing,” Rowdy Gaines told the Washington Post. “He hit some hard times where he went through some things in life that probably wouldn’t be real good for anyone. Sometimes when you get lost, you become a follower instead of a leader.”

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