Klete Keller has five Olympic medals. While he might not be the first name you think of from the men’s swimming world, his prowess in the pool helped Michael Phelps earn some of his medals. However, after Keller became the latest Olympian in the spotlight for the wrong reasons — trying to storm the U.S. Capitol — some might expect him to be stripped of his medals. The problem: He doesn’t know where they are.
Klete Keller’s Olympic career and thoughts on winning
Keller was a three-time Olympian and succeeded, to some degree, every time he went. He made his grand entry into the biggest stage in swimming at the Sydney Games in 2000, according to Olympic.org. He did not strike gold but got himself a silver and a bronze in the 400-meter freestyle and 200-meter relay, respectively. It was enough to get his name out there, although the best was yet to come in Athens.
Although Michael Phelps got most of the glory from this time out, Keller had an impressive run himself. He took home the bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle and gold in the relay. Then, in Beijing, Keller took home another relay gold. It was his only event of that Olympics, and while he took a backseat, it was impressive, nonetheless.
However, something was missing when Keller spoke about them. Reminiscing about his career in 2014, Keller told NBC Sports that he lost the medals while moving across the country multiple times.
“My parents have one of them. I’ve been doing a lot of moving around. I don’t know where three of them are. I think they’re in a box somewhere in the garage. I’m sure they’ll be recovered at some point,” the five-time medal winner said. “To me the medals don’t really mean much. The ribbons get all tattered. It’s not like they’re solid gold or anything. What they do for me is serve as a tangible reminder of a really important time in my life.”
He concluded with the claim that while the medals may be the goal, the physical reward was nothing special to him. “I could not really care less about the medals themselves,” he said, “which would explain why I don’t know where three of them are.” Of course, his personal trials may have something to do with it, as well.
Keller’s personal struggles
After Keller left his swimming days behind him, his life took a dramatic downturn. His marriage crumbled, and according to his ex-wife, Cari Sherrill, he drifted away to the point where he never saw his kids and ended up homeless on the street. For years, Keller blamed everyone but himself, but in 2018, he appeared to have his life in order.
Keller made waves in 2018 by opening up to the Olympic Channel about his story and shining a light on the struggles with depression and falling back into society after giving so much for his country. Since then, he hasn’t made too many headlines. However, on January 6, when a group of Americans stormed the U.S. Capitol and tried to overturn the United States election, some noticed a familiar 6-foot-6 presence. It was Keller.
Explain when and how he became homeless, how he got out of homeless, and how during this time, Keller admitted that he doesn’t know where his Olympic medals are, and he doesn’t seem to care
Klete Keller makes the wrong kind of history
In the months leading up to the Capitol riot, Keller made a habit of appearing at political rallies questioning the election. However, when one of those protests led to an attempted insurrection, Keller didn’t turn back and go home. He helped lead the charge and was eventually arrested after being recognized among the crowd.
According to Keller’s old swimming coach, Mark Schubert, this may have been a wake-up call as he told The New York Times. “He apologized to me,” said Schubert. “He kept repeating, ‘You’ve done so much for me, and I let you down.’ He kept saying over and over, ‘I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.'”
It happened. Now, Keller faces a lengthy prison sentence and little chance of ever getting back in the good graces. The once self-proclaimed joker will now go down as a posterchild for one of the most infamous moments in American history. The medals might be gone, but now Keller may be known best for something far darker, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.