The 2013 World Dwarf Games kick off in Michigan
MICHIGAN -- A parade of nations featuring at least 25 different countries kicked off the 2013 World Dwarf Games in East Lansing Saturday. The opening ceremonies began at 8 a.m., early enough to accommodate a full day of competition on the track around Ralph Young Field.
Little people of all ages -- even as young as three years old -- had the chance to compete in Olympic field events and track events of various distances. But regardless of age, participants say they were happy to be able to competing against people their size.
"I was always the shorter one," said Tim Murray, 26, an American athlete competing in his fourth World Dwarf Games. "I was always smaller than everybody, so I was always getting beat up on and whatnot. So I came here and I'm able to step up and compete on a fair level I guess."
It was one of the first times that nine-year-old Liz Hedger had realistic competition.
"Basically when I swim it's just a race against myself," she said.
Her father Brian says he has trained her to think about beating her own times, rather than her opponents who are naturally faster and stronger. He didn't need to provide the same instruction Saturday.
"It's big for people to be able to get out here and show that you're no different than anyone else," he said. "You're just smaller. That's it. You can just go out there and try your hardest."
Being among people of similar stature and with similar experiences is what makes the World Dwarf Games more than a sporting event. In fact, many athletes say the competitions sometimes take a back seat to the event's more core values.
"It reminds you that you're not alone," said Blaze Foster, 23, who traveled from Pittsburgh for his first games. "You have support. There are people with dwarfism who want to compete in athletics at any age. It's a great experience. You can learn a lot of stuff on and off the field."