Centre County Athlete Overcomes Injury to Compete at National Special Olympics
Stepping confidently up to the lane, Centre County Special Olympics athlete Trevor Chester peers over the bowling ball held up to his face.
With smooth motions, his right arm swings like a pendulum, sending his dark blue sphere rolling toward the pins. With a clatter, the pins all fall and scatter.
Chester, an athlete since the age of nine, is no stranger to athletic accomplishment. He’s competed in track and field, swimming, golfing, and even played bocce competitively – but it’s his bowling that’s taking him to the Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey next week.
Chester competes in unified bowling, in which he and a partner from his family alternate turns and combine scores. Though he normally plays with his mother, Diane Chester, he’ll be joined at the USA Games by his niece Emily Mowery.
Chester and Mowery competed together for the first time at last summer’s games in State College after an injury left Diane unable to play. Their familial bond proved stronger than the competition when they took the gold medal.
Chester says he was already thrilled at that point: surrounded by proud teammates, friends and family and being recognized for his carefully honed skills. Then each gold medal-winning team was entered for the chance to go nationals.
“It was a drawing, with the names drawn from a hat,” Chester says, his face lighting up at the topic of nationals. “I was excited for the medal, but I was more happy than that when my name was drawn from that hat.”
Mowery says that, since his selection for the USA Games, Chester’s excitement has been constant and inextinguishable. He keeps a countdown on his calendar, he tells his family all that he wants to do that weekend and he bought a new bowling ball to celebrate and prepare.
“The most rewarding thing about the Special Olympics is watching Trevor improve, struggle and keep at it,” Diane says, glowing with pride.
And though struggle followed Chester on his journey, he did keep at it. While his intellectual disability never got in the way of his happiness or his athletics, a series of stomach surgeries and hospitalizations nearly did.
First hospitalized with a perforated colon at 18 years old, Chester would be hospitalized two more times over the next 12 years for scar tissue and other intestinal blockages, his mother says. Following his surgeries, he had to wear a wound vacuum-assisted device, a kind of pump that quickens the healing of open or chronic wounds, on his stomach.
“It was terrible when I was in the hospital,” Chester says. “My arms were black and blue from blood tests.”
Mowery was on a mission trip in Africa with five days to go until her return when she received an email informing her that Chester was in the hospital. As soon as she landed stateside, she borrowed a stranger’s phone and called the hospital.
While in the hospital, Chester says he worried about his future as an athlete. Though he recovered well – and now bowls like a champion – he wasn’t always sure that he would. Chester says during these trying times he came close to giving up on athletics and worried that we would be physically unable to bowl.
Now, with a healed body and a prevailing spirit, he looks forward to the future.
“I’ll be proud if I win or lose [at nationals],” Chester says. “I already made it this far.”