Athletes from around the world converged on Guelph, Ont. from August 4th to 12th to compete in the World Dwarf Games.
These game are open to all ages, from six-year-olds right up to people aged over 35 – and the range of talent is quite impressive. Competitions in archery, badminton, basketball, boccia, floor hockey, curling, swimming, marksmanship, power lifting, soccer, table tennis, track and field and volleyball see hundreds of athletes competing against each other for a spot on the podium.
According to organizers, The World Dwarf Games are considered to be the largest sporting event in history being held exclusively for athletes with dwarfism.
“Our aim is to provide the participants, their families, and supporters, a welcoming and supportive environment for excellent sport competition at the University of Guelph’s state of the arts facilities, while providing opportunities for forging lifelong friendships”, organizers say on their website.
Mikayla Bleau has been training hard in both archery and swimming. The Grade 11 student won her first gold medal 4 years ago. This year she took home both the gold and silver medals in archery.
Bleau tells Global News the games are not about competing for a piece of hardware – they represent an opportunity for athletes with dwarfism to excel in sports and build lasting friendships with other athletes.
“A lot of people in this world do not know about the World Dwarf Games and by changing every single year – where it is –opens it up to other people. And by being on the news, everyone is able to know there is a World Dwarf Games for little people, maybe I can do and be with people like me and be comfortable being around everybody”, Bleau said during a studio interview.
The World Dwarf Games have been held every four years since 1993. The first Games took place in Chicago with 165 athletes from 10 countries competing.
The competition has since grown to include hundreds of athletes from over 20 countries. The mandate of the Games is to “encourage international sporting competition amongst dwarf athletes; represent the needs of dwarf athletes amongst other international sporting organizations; set and maintain standard rules for sports used in international competition; establish eligibility and profiling rules for participating athletes; support a World Games every four years.”
Athletes like Bleau say the Games not only provide motivation and encouragement but they help break down barriers and stigmas often associated with dwarfism, through education and by raising awareness.