In his America at Large column, Dave Hannigan has the happy knack of unearthing some remarkable life stories, but perhaps few have been quite as striking as that of Klete Keller. From a two-time Olympic swimming champion to being sentenced last week for his role in the US Capitol riot of January 2021, it has indeed been a life less ordinary.
Since retiring from swimming, the now 41-year-old, like so many elite athletes, struggled “to carve out a meaningful second life”, estrangement from his family, mental health issues and homelessness combining to send that life spiralling out of control. Add in being radicalised on social media and Keller, wearing his US Olympic team jacket, found himself part of the violent mob that invaded the US Capitol. “Once star-spangled, now Trump-mangled,” writes Dave.
Mercifully, Noel McNamara has had a somewhat smoother journey in his transition from teaching at Clongowes Wood College to becoming an attack coach with Bordeaux-Begles, Connacht’s opponents in the Champions Cup on Friday night. John O’Sullivan talks to the Clare native about his coaching career which has included spells with the Irish under-20 team, with clubs in New Zealand and South Africa before he moved to France during the summer.
And Gerry Thornley hears from Leinster’s Ryan Baird who admits that any mention of the World Cup left him with “this sick feeling in my stomach” in the immediate aftermath of the tournament. On reflection though he saw it as an invaluable learning experience, and after going campervanning with Mackenzie, his golden retriever, he’s refreshed and ready to take on La Rochelle on Sunday.
Ronan O’Gara will be confined to the stands for that game, and won’t, Johnny Watterson reports, be allowed in the tunnel or changing rooms after being handed a one-week suspension for ‘indiscipline’ after La Rochelle’s defeat to Racing 92 last month. He may or may not have had words with the referee.
O’Gara’s old muckers Munster are preparing for their Champions Cup meeting with Bayonne at Thomond Park on Saturday, Johnny talking to Diarmuid Barron about him taking over from Peter O’Mahony as captain, for now at least, his new contract with the province and his international ambitions.
In Gaelic games, Ian O’Riordan takes you through next year’s league and championship football and hurling fixtures and the plans for a new National Hurling League structure from 2025, the aim to “bring some life back into the competition”.
And Ciarán Murphy salutes John Conlon for a superb season with Clare and Clonlara, at the end of which he became just the seventh man to win an All Star as both a defender and an attacker. Ciarán challenges you to name the other six, and gives you permission “to torture someone at your Christmas party” with the teaser.
TV Watch: There are another couple of Premier League games on your tellies tonight, Everton v Newcastle (Premier Sports 2, 7.30pm) and Tottenham v West Ham (Premier Sports 1, 8.15pm).