Win­nipeg­ger aims for gold in first Dwarf World Cup

Lo­cal ath­lete one of three Cana­di­ans on North Amer­i­can team

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS I LOCAL - ASH­LEY PREST ash­ley.prest@freep­ress.mb.ca

INNIPEG’S Vivek Bha­gria will make sports his­tory later this month when he rep­re­sents Canada at the first Dwarf World Cup in Buenos Aires.

Bha­gria, 23, has been selected as one of three Cana­di­ans on the 11-player North Amer­ica soc­cer team. There will be 200 ath­letes from 12 coun­tries com­pet­ing in the soc­cer-only in­ter­na­tional event, run­ning from Oct. 23 to 29.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited and I hope to bring home gold this time be­cause I haven’t won gold yet,” said Bha­gria, who has won two sil­ver medals in floor hockey and a bronze medal in vol­ley­ball in two pre­vi­ous multi-sport in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances. He was a mem­ber of Team Canada at the 2013 and 2017 World Dwarf Games, where he also com­peted in soc­cer, track, bas­ket­ball, boc­cia and bad­minton.

“I think we’re go­ing to be a good team be­cause we’ve found all the best play­ers from the U.S. and Canada. At the (World Dwarf) Games, we com­peted

Wa­gainst each other and now we have a chance to play to­gether on one team. It’s go­ing to be quite ex­cit­ing.” Bha­gria said Zach Roloff, one of the stars of the Amer­i­can real­ity TV show Lit­tle Peo­ple, Big World , is a friend who is now his team­mate af­ter hav­ing been his op­po­nent. Roloff, who has played for the U.S. at the Games, is the as­sis­tant cap­tain with the North Amer­ica World Cup team.

The cap­tain is Je­meel Kas­sam of Toronto, Bah­gria’s friend and Cana­dian team­mate from pre­vi­ous World Dwarf Games.

Bha­gria tried out for the team in Toronto and found out Wed­nes­day that he had been selected. He said or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the In­ter­na­tional Dwarf Ath­letic Fed­er­a­tion, the Dwarf Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada and the Dwarf Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, among oth­ers, have changed the sports land­scape for peo­ple liv­ing with dwarfism.

“They’re try­ing to find ways to cre­ate aware­ness and for lit­tle peo­ple to have op­por­tu­ni­ties in sport, just like ev­ery­one else. Ten years ago, we didn’t have this chance. There’s these great or­ga­ni­za­tions with spon­sors, and we’re able to com­pete against peo­ple our size,” said Bha­gria, a Red River Col­lege busi­ness stu­dent who plans to work in re­tail man­age­ment.

Bha­gria, who is 4-1, was born with achon­dropla­sia, a ge­netic con­di­tion that re­stricts the growth of bones. A de­ter­mined ath­lete, he com­peted in school sports dur­ing high school at Dakota Col­le­giate with and against much taller ath­letes in sports such as soc­cer and ul­ti­mate (disc sport).

“They would be twice as fast as me, so there would be some strug­gles, but I’d have to find my own way to be suc­cess­ful in sport,” Bha­gria said.

“I think it helped my skill de­vel­op­ment be­cause I had to find dif­fer­ent ways to beat them. I had to make sure I was cut­ting more, to pass more. But now (in the Dwarf World Cup), I have the same speed as these lit­tle peo­ple, so it will be a re­ally good chance to show my skills and show what I can do.”

MIKAELA MACKEN­ZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Vivek Bha­gria will com­pete on the North Amer­i­can team in the first-ever Dwarf World Cup.

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