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Olympic swimming gold medalist was part of mob that invaded Capitol

Supporters of President Donald Trump surged into the US Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6.
Supporters of President Donald Trump surged into the US Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6.SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Klete Keller, a champion swimmer who won two Olympic gold medals as a relay teammate of Michael Phelps’s, was identified by former teammates and coaches as a member of the crowd that surged into the US Capitol during violent protests last Wednesday.

A video posted by a reporter from a conservative outlet, Townhall, appeared to show the 6-foot-6-inch Keller towering over a crowd that was pushing and shoving with police officers who were trying to clear the Capitol Rotunda.

Several former teammates and coaches said they recognized Keller in the video because of his size and because he was wearing a US Olympic team jacket that had “USA” printed across the back and down the sleeves. A green face covering hung around his neck, making his face clearly visible.

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A swimming news site, SwimSwam, first reported Keller’s presence at the Capitol riot on Monday. The video had been circulating in the swimming community since last week, and several people who saw it are said to have reported Keller to the authorities.

Efforts to reach Keller were unsuccessful.

American swimmer Klete Keller displayed his bronze medal on the podium after the men's 400-meter freestyle event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
American swimmer Klete Keller displayed his bronze medal on the podium after the men's 400-meter freestyle event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP

Few of the people who recognized Keller in the video expressed surprise at his presence in Washington. His deleted social media accounts, several of them said, had in recent years included a stream of pro-Trump messaging.

No video has emerged of Keller participating in any violent acts in the Capitol, but his mere presence in the building, if confirmed by authorities, may have placed him in legal jeopardy. Numerous people who entered the building now face federal charges that include unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. More serious charges include theft of government property and firearms violations.

Keller, 38, was a member of three US Olympic teams, and he won medals at three Olympics, including golds at the Athens Games in 2004 and at the Beijing Games in 2008 as a member of the 4x200-meter relay team. He won silver in the event at the 2000 Sydney Games.

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A powerful freestyler, Keller produced his signature moment in 2004 in Athens. Days after winning a second straight bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle, Keller gained a measure of revenge when he held off the gold medalist, Ian Thorpe of Australia, on the anchor leg of the relay final. Phelps swam the leadoff leg for the American team, which included Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay.

Keller had worked in recent years as a real estate agent in Colorado Springs. His agency, Hoff & Leigh, confirmed he was employed there when contacted by SwimSwam, but by Monday night the company had removed Keller’s profile and nearly all references to him from its website.

A cached version of his Hoff & Leigh contact page included a biography that described Keller as a broker associate with three years of real estate experience. His career as an elite athlete, the company said, had made him “extremely driven.”

Asked about Keller’s employment, a woman who answered the phone at the company on Tuesday said, “We can’t give out any information on that at this moment.” A call to a cellphone number for Keller returned a message that he was not available.