World Dwarf Games showcase athletes, ‘family’

World Dwarf Games_Newt

EAST LANSING, Michigan (AP) — Athletes from around the world are competing at this week’s World Dwarf Games in the U.S.

More than 400 athletes from 23 nations are participating in this year’s Games, which organizers are calling the largest-ever sporting event exclusively for athletes with dwarfism.

The U.S. led the medal count through Thursday’s events, followed by Great Britain, Australia and Canada. The events run through Saturday.

The Games are held every four years. This year’s sixth installment is the largest ever. The 2009 Games in Belfast featured 250 athletes from 12 countries.

Dwarfism is a medical or genetic condition. Most enjoy normal intelligence, normal life spans and reasonably good health, according to Little People of America, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Known as dwarfs, little people or short-statured, those with dwarfism are sometimes misunderstood, and in extreme cases, ridiculed.

That’s why the importance of the weeklong Games can’t be understated, said Len Sawisch, who co-founded the Dwarf Athletic Association of America and is considered a pioneer in the world of dwarf athletics.

“Most of us grow up being the only little person in our school or our community,” Sawisch said. “To have the opportunity to be with other dwarf athletes” means a lot.

Australian Cullen Adams, who repeated as the 100-meter dash champion, won in 14.02 seconds, making him the world’s fastest dwarf athlete.

“Being part of the LP, the little people community, it definitely is an extended family — the camaraderie. It’s just so natural. And that’s the beauty of it,” said Adams.

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