Kester Edwards

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Kester Edwards with Penny McDowall
Kester Edwards is passionate, committed and professional. He worked hard and long, together with Jon-Paul St. Germain, to get open water swimming into the Special Olympics World Summer Games. Without precedent for the first time in Special Olympics history, Special Olympics athletes will have an opportunity to compete on the world's stage in the sport of open water swimming. District of Columbia (USA)

Kester, originally from Tobago and now of Washington, D.C., was one of the first International Global Messengers of the Special Olympics. He traveled and spoke around the world to spread the message of the Special Olympics. Kester with his dynamic personality and unflinching drive, Kester has been a true leader in the open water swimming movement. He currently works at the Special Olympics Washington D.D. headquarters office and has authored a book.

Kester is also a former Special Olympics International board member and is currently the Coordinator for Leadership Development and Education at Special Olympics International and helps facilitate the Healthy Athletes program.

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Relationship with Special Olympics

Kester started swimming in the Special Olympics when he was 9 as well as competed in football (soccer), basketball, volleyball and floor hockey. He competed in his first World Games in Indiana in 1987 where he represented Trinidad and Tobago in swimming. In 1995, he officiated Aquatics at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Connecticut. Then in 1997, he was appointed to the Special Olympics Board of Directors and served on the Rules committee. He was also a part of the first class of Special Olympics Global Messengers from 1998 to 2000. Since then, he has been an employee of Special Olympics International, where he coordinates the Leadership Development and Education as well as the Regional Growth Division and the Sport department.

Love of the Water

Swimming has always been his favorite sport. In the early 1990s, he heard about a 4-mile open water swim called the “Ovaltine Open Water Swim” in his home country. Initially, the race officials were nervous about allowing him to compete, but he qualified through a special swimming demonstration.

Introduction of Open Water Swimming in the World Summer Games

Because the International Olympic Committee introduced the 10K open water swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kester has always thought it is important that Special Olympics mirror the Olympic Games. He has compiled a list of Special Olympics athletes who compete in open water swims and worked to create a platform so they could compete on the world's stage.

A minimum of 30 athletes needed to compete in order for the World Summer Games Organizing Committee to approve it. 35 athletes registered for the initial race in Athens.

Special Olympics has come a long way. As Kester says, "I always think about how Mrs. Shriver [the founder of the Special Olympics] was a swimmer. When she started the World Summer Games in 1968, we had one 25-meter event in the pool. But now we offer a one-mile event, a dramatic testimony of how far our movement has come."

Kester Edwards On Open Water Wednesday

Special Olympics World Summer Games

The 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games was nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year:

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