Alexander Klose was diagnosed with brain cancer in June 2017
Alexander Klose’s life went into a blur in June 2017 after he received a diagnosis of Stage 4 brain cancer and his doctor told Klose that he likely had just 18 months left to live.
Out of this dark moment, however, came the idea for one of the best moments of the 2018 UANA Pan American Masters Championships Presented by SeaWorld and Hosted by the Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla.
Klose had been planning to compete in the meet with childhood friend Brett Saum, but after his diagnosis, he decided they should swim a 200 medley relay again with high school teammates Richard Hoppock and Raffi Karamian. “It had to happen because these are my boys,” Klose says.
His boys entered Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Md.) High in 1993 and finished third at a county meet in the 200-yard medley relay, leading the student newspaper to nickname them “The Fab Four.” “The amazing thing: When we came together, our best strokes were all of the strokes [in the medley relay],” Hoppock says. They won that relay at the county meet as juniors and as seniors.
After that, they went their separate ways. Klose swam breaststroke at Middlebury College and St. Mary's College of Maryland and moved to Norway, Saum swam backstroke at Virginia Tech and moved to Colorado. Karamian and Hoppock stayed somewhat close to home but are still about 50 miles apart.
Hoppock, the freestyler, was all-in with Klose’s idea of recreating their relay. However, they had one problem: None of them had spoken with Karamian, their butterflyer, for years.
That changed last December when Karamian was asked at a party if he had heard Klose had been diagnosed with secondary glioblastoma. Karamian hadn’t and reached out to his former teammate on Instagram the next day. When the two spoke on FaceTime the following day, Klose told Karamian that they wanted to get the relay back together, but that Saum had found someone to replace Karamian. “Like hell you are,” Karamian told him. “I’ll be there.”
When the four arrived at their hotel on Monday, it was the first time they had all been together since the summer of 1998. Hoppock’s mother created a scrapbook of their swimming careers, which led to them telling stories and reminiscing for hours.
“But we’re 40 years old,” Karamian says. “We had to go to bed at 10 o’clock. If it was 20 years ago, we would’ve stayed up.”
Their relay team went 2 minutes, 09.10 seconds, good for eighth place in the men’s 120-159 200-meter medley relay and earning them medals. They represented Sea Devil Swimming Masters, which trains at the same pool as the USA Swimming club they swam for as children.
Sitting in the stands after the race, Klose credits his teammates for going fast and then points out a few things he wants to improve upon on his breaststroke leg.
“But whatever, I’ve got cancer, so just doing it is enormous,” says Klose, who then turns to his daughter and adds, “What’s our definition of a winner? If we’re having fun, doing our best, we’re winning. So, according to that, I won the race today.”
Klose’s battle against cancer is still going—he underwent surgery last year and has been part of a clinical trial for the past 14 months—but his teammates believe he can win the fight.
“If there’s anybody that can beat it,” Karamian says, “he can beat it.”
Adds Saum: “Seeing him over the past two days, he looks better than he’s ever been.”
Klose wants to keep The Fab Four together, saying they were committed to going to the 2019 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship in Mesa, Ariz., next April. They are, he says, much more comfortable swimming a short course yards meet.
“I want to keep this going as long as we all can,” Klose says. “These are my best friends, and they always will be. I don’t know what to say other than I love these guys.”
- Human Interest