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This article was published 18/8/2015 (645 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Vivek Bhagria may need to make some more space for his growing collection of medals.
The 20-year-old St. Vital resident returned from the 2015 National Dwarf Games in St. Louis, Mo., last month with four medals. He won two silver for basketball and soccer and two bronze for badminton and volleyball.
The multi-sport games, which Bhagria said featured participants from both the U.S. and Canada, are organized by the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA). According to its website, the non-profit organization’s mandate is to develop, promote and provide quality amateur-level athletic competition opportunities for dwarf athletes, and "provide the context for each athlete’s potential to be taken seriously and provide an opportunity for reach athlete to be their best."
Standing at four-foot-one, Bhagria said the all-inclusive nature of the games — "it doesn’t matter what age or size you are, or if you have a disability," — fosters a culture of camaraderie among the athletes, as well as a sense of self-confidence and self-fulfillment.
"I had a great time playing with all of the athletes," Bhagria said. "The experience makes you feel equal and because you get to communicate with so many other athletes, it also helps create awareness about dwarfism."
Among his fellow athletes was Zach Roloff, whose family is featured in the popular TV show Little People, Big World.
"He was captain of the soccer team and is very athletic. He’s a pretty popular guy. Everyone knows him. Despite being famous, he’s just the same as other people. He’s a chilled, funny guy," Bhagria said.
Bhagria said he experienced different "challenges" when he was a child, but these experiences ultimately made him more determined to succeed and more focused on his sporting goals, as well becoming a role model.
"One time, I tried out for the soccer team and some of the other kids made fun of me and I went crying to my parents. What was frustrating was people thinking I couldn’t do things, instead of them being more open-minded," he said.
"I’m going to keep playing sport until I get old. People that think they can’t do anything must have a positive attitude. You have to open your heart and do your best and show people you’re no different than anyone else."
Bhagria’s recent medal haul was not the first time the Dakota Collegiate alumnus has returned to the city with shiny new neck candy. His tournament resume also lists an appearance at the 2013 World Dwarf Games in East Lansing, Mich., when he was the only Manitoban on Team Canada. On that occasion, Bhagria came home with a silver for floor hockey and a bronze for volleyball.
Away from the athletic arena, Bhagria is busy preparing to study business administration at Red River College next month.
For more information about DAAA, visit www.daaa.org