Simon Keith

Simon Keith

Simon Keith

Simon Keith holds the distinction of being the first athlete in the world to play a professional sport after undergoing a heart transplant. Born in Lewes, England in 1965, Simon Keith and his family moved to Victoria, British Columbia in 1967. He started playing soccer at a young age, honing his skills in the very competitive Lower Island Youth Soccer Association, first with the Boys Club Soccer Club and later with Lansdowne Evening Optimists. Simon attended Mount Douglas Secondary School and played with the Prospect Lake Lakers in the Vancouver Island Soccer League. After representing British Columbia at the U-18 and the senior men’s level and Canada at the Youth level, Simon moved to England to play professionally for Millwall FC.

Upon his return to Canada, Simon joined the Canadian National Training Center while also playing for the UVIC Vikes Soccer Team. It was at this time that Simon was faced with an unknown illness that interrupted his career. Simon was just 21 when, in July of 1986, he received the heart of a 17 year-old boy, who ironically died while playing soccer. The surgery was performed at Papworth Hospital outside of London by renowned surgeons Dr. Mohsin Hakim and Sir Terence English.

Simon then moved to Las Vegas in 1987 determined to return to the field of play. Amazingly, he returned to competitive soccer playing for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, under head coach Barry Barto. During two seasons with the Rebels, he garnered many honors including being named the Student-Athlete of Year for the Conference and being voted USA’s Most Courageous Athlete. After his senior season, Simon was named the Most Valuable Player at the Senior Bowl and was drafted first overall into the Major Indoor Soccer League, just three years after his heart transplant. His professional career included stops in Cleveland, Victoria, Winnipeg and Montreal.

Now one of the longest-living organ transplant recipients in the world and most notable professional athletes of his time, Simon recently published his biography – Heart for the Game - detailing this most unique journey, including his return to Wales to stand on the field with his donor’s father, 25 years after that fateful day when the boy lost his life.

In 2011, he founded The Simon Keith Foundation, an organization dedicated to increasing organ donor awareness and educating transplant recipients. A keynote speaker, Simon uses the proceeds from his engagements to provide athletic training for other transplant recipients who choose to return to an active and healthy lifestyle.

Simon is married to Victoria native, Kelly, and has three children: Sarah, Samantha and Sean. In addition to his philanthropic efforts, and professional soccer career, he is also the Chief Operating Officer of the Nevada Donor Network, the organ procurement organization for the state of Nevada. Simon has been inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame as well as been honored by speaking at the White House in advocating for improved organ donation systems.


Randy Bennett

Randy Bennett

Randy Bennett

Randy Bennett

One of the most celebrated coaches in Canadian swimming history, Randy Bennett began his career in his early 20’s as a part-time coach at the northern Alberta pool where he was a lifeguard. From 1981 to 2002 he coached at locations across Canada including Edmonton, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Windsor, and Vancouver. Shortly after arriving in Vancouver, Randy met Lesley through mutual friends. They married on the island of Maui in 1996. In 2002, Randy’s skills, work ethic, tenacity and toughness caught the eye of Island Swimming who were seeking an already successful coach and a forceful and determined leader to take the position of Head Coach.

In 2003, Randy and Lesley brought their two young boys to Victoria, where he was Head Coach/Director of Swimming for Island Swimming for the next 13 years. Within a few years, Randy moved his club to the top of the national rankings. During that time, he successfully lobbied national sport funding partners and Swimming Canada to establish a recognized national training centre in Victoria. Today, the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre in Victoria is recognized as a premier swim program both nationally and internationally. Randy was a long-term visionary of the sport. His model of world-class sport science and medicine support continues to be the model used across all of Swimming Canada’s programs.

In 2008, Randy’s athlete Ryan Cochrane won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, and this success cemented Randy’s position as National Team Head Coach for the next seven years, until his untimely death in 2015 at just 51 years of age. During this time, his program accounted for seven of 11 medals across the 2012 London Olympics, two Commonwealth Games and three World Championships. Under his mentorship, there was a dramatic improvement in how athletes performed and conducted themselves as professionals. Randy put “an unbelievable amount of time, energy and work into making us better athletes as well as better people,” Ryan says, “and he was successful at supporting decades worth of athletes to this goal.”

Among Randy’s many awards are eight Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Awards, six times Swim BC Coach of the Year, Swimming Canada Coach of the Year for five consecutive years 2008 – 2012, and BC Swim Coaches Association National, Open Water and International Coach of the Year, all in 2013. He received the Governor General’s Award in 2012.

Although his increasing success over the years brought many attractive offers elsewhere, Randy and Lesley were determined to keep their family in Victoria. Randy Bennett’s legacy will live on in the pool at Saanich Commonwealth Place, and he will always be remembered for his contributions to his sport, his community and his country.


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Victoria enjoys a stellar sports history and we celebrate the many athletes, teams and builders who have contributed to that history.  Our displays are seen at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre (1925 Blanshard St.)  through Gate Three.


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