Klete Keller, a five-time Olympic medalist who anchored the U.S. 4x200m freestyle relay to gold (holding off Ian Thorpe) at the 2004 Athens Games, went into “a deep depression” after a 2014 divorce and said he lived in his car for almost one year, according to USA Swimming.
“I was paying child support for my kids and couldn’t afford a place, so I lived in my car for almost a year,” Keller, a 36-year-old who retired after his third Olympics in 2008, said, according to USA Swimming. “I had a Ford Fusion at the time, so at 6-foot-6, it was challenging to make the room to sleep. But I made it work.”
Keller, who has three kids, was jobless and homeless.
“He alternated parking at one of the two Wal-Marts in his area and at rest stops and kept his gym membership active so he had somewhere to shower and workout,” according to the story.
In a spring 2014 interview, Keller said he was bitter toward his swimming career and didn’t know where three of his Olympic medals were located.
“It’s not right, but I still probably hold some bitterness toward myself mostly, but also a little bit toward my sport because I let myself get too deep into it,” Keller said then. “I’m still not quite over that, unfortunately, but I’m working on it. I do love the sport. I’m just a little disappointed overall.”
The effects of leaving swimming spread through his life.
“After swimming, I thought I had to find the same title or level of success in my work — no matter what I was doing or how much I didn’t enjoy it – to feel that same success that I did in swimming,” Keller said, according to USA Swimming. “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. As I look back now, I wasn’t a very good husband.”
Now, Keller is back on his feet, having moved to Colorado Springs, working in residential real estate and accruing airline miles on his credit card to fund trips to see his children, according to USA Swimming.
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