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Small in stature, big in determination

Winnipegger in 2013 World Dwarf Games

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/5/2013 (1996 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Wearing the Maple Leaf and representing Canada is a dream for most athletes, and Winnipeg's Vivek Bhagria will live that dream this summer.

Bhagria, an 18-year-old Dakota Collegiate student living with dwarfism, is a member of Team Canada who will compete at the 2013 World Dwarf Games Aug. 3 to 10 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. He is the only Manitoban on the 30-member team.

Bhagria will compete in soccer, track, basketball, volleyball, boccia and badminton. At Dakota, he plays for the soccer, badminton and cricket teams.

"This is going to be my Olympics," said Bhagria, a Grade 12 student. "It's a world games, so I'm going to be representing Canada with people from all across Canada. Dwarves are going to come from all around the world. For us, it's going to be like a real Olympics. We're going to try to win gold medals and fight for our country."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/5/2013 (1996 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Wearing the Maple Leaf and representing Canada is a dream for most athletes, and Winnipeg's Vivek Bhagria will live that dream this summer.

Bhagria, an 18-year-old Dakota Collegiate student living with dwarfism, is a member of Team Canada who will compete at the 2013 World Dwarf Games Aug. 3 to 10 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. He is the only Manitoban on the 30-member team.

Vivek Bhagria will compete in soccer, track, basketball, volleyball, boccia and badminton.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Vivek Bhagria will compete in soccer, track, basketball, volleyball, boccia and badminton.

Bhagria will compete in soccer, track, basketball, volleyball, boccia and badminton. At Dakota, he plays for the soccer, badminton and cricket teams.

'It's a challenge, being small, but you have to get through it because you're not going to get taller' — Vivek Bhagria, Dakota Collegiate student living with dwarfism

"This is going to be my Olympics," said Bhagria, a Grade 12 student. "It's a world games, so I'm going to be representing Canada with people from all across Canada. Dwarves are going to come from all around the world. For us, it's going to be like a real Olympics. We're going to try to win gold medals and fight for our country."

Bhagria, who is 4-1 in height, was born with achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that restricts the growth of limbs, so he's used to competing against people taller than him. That's all going to change at this event.

"They're all small. It's kind of hard playing with taller people, so this is a chance to compete against people my size and see how it goes," he said. "I'd be so happy if I could win a gold medal and come back and show Canada I won gold for my country."

Len Sawisch, a member of the World Dwarf Games steering committee and co-founder of the Dwarf Athletic Association of America, said the event can be a "resum©-builder" for potential future Paralympians.

"It allows us to identify, on a world scale, those athletes who truly have Paralympic potential so that we can make sure they are appropriately nurtured and trained over the next three years so that they can make the Paralympic teams," Sawisch said in a telephone interview from his Michigan home.

"It (dwarfism) doesn't hold me back, it never has. Some people think I can't do much, but I just want to show that small people can do everything," Bhagria said.

Hurtful attitudes he often encounters in public don't hold him back, either.

"It's a challenge, being small, but you have to get through it because you're not going to get taller," he said. "If you can't get something and you have to use a stool, it can look funny at stores. If I go to the mall with my friends, some people start laughing at me. I wish they were nicer to me. But I've been made fun of my whole life, so I don't care what people say now."

Bhagria said he instead focuses on the positive people in his life.

"I've got great friends and family who all believe in me," said Bhagria, who will attend the University of Manitoba this fall.

Bhagria said his father, Vikram, who also lives with dwarfism, has always taught him to believe in himself.

"My dad has been my role model. He's the best dad ever. He's taught me everything but especially to be respectful to others and care about yourself and care about others. He's been a real inspiration to me."

Bhagria was named his school's athlete of the month for April as he led Dakota's ultimate team (disc sport) in assists and points. His soccer coach, Brad Johnston, said it's hard to get Bhagria out of the gym.

"Even when he is supposed to be in class he shows up in the gym," Johnston said. "He works hard, he's dedicated, he's a team player first and foremost and he'll do pretty much anything to help out the team. He proves that with some determination and a big heart, it doesn't really matter what size you are. It's the size of your heart that matters."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Ashley Prest

Ashley Prest
Reporter

Ashley works the general assignment beat.

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