U of G hosts the 2017 World Dwarf Games

U of G hosts the 2017 World Dwarf Games

How to respect athletes with dwarfism  

The University of Guelph is hosting the seventh World Dwarf Games from August 4 to 12. The World Dwarf Games have been held every four years since the first games in 1993.

In July 2015, Canada’s bid to host the World Dwarf Games was chosen for the second time; the first was in 2001.

The first step in organizing the games was to determine the best location. Heather Anderson, chair of the 2017 World Dwarf Games, said that they “did speak to Ryerson, and York, and U of T,” but ultimately the University of Guelph was chosen.

Anderson noted that Guelph was chosen for a variety of reasons including the great location and wonderful facilities.

More importantly, Anderson noted that Guelph is “a very welcoming community, and a safe community, and we thought that would be a real benefit.”

Anderson told The Ontarion that hosting the World Dwarf Games is a large undertaking, but “it is a wonderful opportunity for people that may not have similar opportunities in their own communities.”

Although games do not get as much funding as other sporting events, Anderson noted that “slowly, we are increasing awareness,” and this is important because “we are all different and this event really drives that home.”


Anderson noted that there are varied statistics regarding dwarfism, which is a rare genetic condition.

There are 200 to 400 types of dwarfism, but the similarity between them is that individuals with dwarfism do not grow as tall as average height.

People with dwarfism face challenges that result from living in a world created for average height people — average height is five foot three for women and five foot nine for men — which can make things hard to reach, but can also lead to staring, jokes, and bullying.

Tips for being respectful to people with dwarfism

  • Treat people their age regardless of their stature.  
  • Do not make short jokes.
  • Do not pat a little person on the head.
  • Wait until your offer of assistance is accepted before helping.
  • The terms little person (LP), dwarf, or person with short stature are acceptable, but it is best to use a person’s name.
  • Put the person before the disability.

World Dwarf Games

The games bring little people from around the world to play a variety of sports. Anderson stated that the 2017 games will have “people from ages six to 69 participating in the sports, and we have seven people that have competed in [the] Paralympics over the years, including [Canadian swimmer] Tess Routliffe, who won silver in Rio [de Janeiro].”

Tasha Falconer

Participants in the games have different athletic abilities. Anderson discussed that some participants are trying out new sports while others are “very active in their community in sports.” Overall, she noted that the “caliber of sports is quite high,” particularly in the team sports.

Anderson stated that “athleticism is something people possess. If you are an athlete, it is as much to do with your mind as your body, and if you are athletic and have that drive to achieve athletically, then you will take your body and you will do the best you can with what you have.”

The purpose of the games is “to provide a sporting opportunity for people of all ages and all abilities with short stature,” stated Anderson.

The 2017 World Dwarf Games website added that the games are meant to “celebrate international understanding [and] promote awareness of the dwarf experience worldwide.”

 Additionally, the games provide the environment to create lifelong friendships.

Playing against people of similar stature “gives the opportunity to put away the outside world and have that camaraderie and be able to compete without, ‘Oh, be careful because they’re short,’ or whatever. They just go for it!”

The event is important as it brings awareness to dwarfism and gives dwarfs an “opportunity to find out what they are good at. It fosters self-esteem and makes them part of the community,” said Anderson.

Sports played at the World Dwarf Games

  • Archery
  • Track and field
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Boccia
  • Floor hockey
  • Kurling
  • Powerlifting
  • Marksmanship
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Table tennis

Photo by Tasha Falconer.