Sports

WARMINGTON

World Dwarf Games are 'Olympics for little people'

By Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun

Little people, big hearts. Even grander athletic performances.

Representing Canada, Oakville’s Justin Kendrick, 13, and pal Wyatt Lightfoot, 14, of Assiniboia, Sask., stunned competitors from 19 countries by winning the badminton doubles gold medal at the 2017 World Dwarf Games at the University of Guelph.

Pure guts.

“We can read each other’s moves,” said Lightfoot of Justin whom he met at the last games in Michigan in 2013.

“He has so much talent,” adds Kendrick.

They made history here.

“They are like brothers,” said Kendrick’s proud mom, Sam.

Continuing until next weekend, it was a fun event to attend.

There were lots of great stories.

For example, Ellie Simmonds, of Great Britain, won a gold medal in the pool at the Para Olympics in Rio last year.

“I see myself as an athlete,” she said.

A world class one.

With fellow British teammates Lucy Sleight, Sammy Holland and Jess Davies, she says they were here to see friends and have a good time — but mostly to win.

This whole event was full of plots you could make into a movie or TV show.

An example is Orillia’s Steph and Chris Rutte and their five-month-old son Corbin, who — like his parents — was born with the dwarf gene. These games allow Corbin the chance to one day participate in top athletics. Of the almost 500 athletes at this year’s games, some are as young as six.

“This is the Olympics for little people,” said Toronto’s own track and field athlete Brit Theis. “It’s fun for sure and the camaraderie is a big part of it. “But when the race starts it can get very competitive.”

With photographer Veronica Henri, I saw that first hand Monday. No small efforts.

Before being bested by Kendrick and Lightfoot, Matthew Reynolds, from Bristol, England, and his fellow 15-year-old badminton partner, Daniel Werkheiser, from Maryland, fought through incredible adversity.

Werkheiser banged up his knee — leaving a bump the size of a softball.

And Reynolds’ racket, shoes, clothing and medication were lost on their Air Canada flight from Dublin.

“I had to borrow everything,” Reynolds said laughing.

They can lose his luggage but they’ll have a harder time misplacing his heart.

Turns out there is nothing little about the World Dwarf Games or those who compete in them.