Size doesn't count at these Games

Aside from the pursuit of gold medals, competitors at the World Dwarf Games being held in France this week want to be treated as serious athletes, and not pitied because of their height.

The fourth edition of the championships at Rambouillet, south of Paris, has drawn together 135 dwarves measuring between 80cm and 1,4m, with the largest delegation coming from Britain.

Other countries represented are the United States, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Spain, Morocco, Kosovo and hosts France.

Arthur Dean, president of the International Dwarf Athletics Federation, believes these championships send a strong message to a world too often ready to pity or even ridicule little people.

“Sport offers us a chance to prove that we can do something for ourselves in a society where some think that because we’re small what’s in our brain is also small.”

“The first editions of the Games were held in the US, England and Canada—countries where the integration of people of a small size is more developed than in France,” said the competition’s director general, Alain Dajean.

“The aim is not to incite pity but to put the spotlight on our sports,” he added.

Jean-Marcel Guillas. the head of the French delegation, believes a lack of confidence can often deter dwarves taking part in sport.

“Sport is one of the best ways of integration, but a lot of dwarves hold back because they’re used to watching tall athletes and they don’t feel comfortable.”

Bullying and gratuitous insults is something the young Ben Bromley-Coolidge knows all too well.

This angel-faced 15-year-old American basketball fan has made the journey from his home in San Francisco to compete at Rambouillet.

Stung by the memory of certain jibes, Ben’s mother, Emily, hails her son’s passion for sport, which she says has enabled him “to learn how to win and to lose while all the time gaining confidence in himself, especially with the girls”.

Like many other parents, the Bromleys are members of Little People of America, the organisation tat provides advice and support to families with dwarves.

France Nano Sports plays a similar role in France and counts among its 40 members Patricia Marquis, the first French athlete to qualify under the new F40 category reserved for dwarves at last year’s Paralympics in Athens.

“I’m proud to have competed at the Olympic Games,” said Patricia. “We have the same demands on us in terms of the level of training and anti-doping controls, which is normal.

“The only thing I regret is the lack of media coverage,” she added.—Sapa-AFP

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