Winnipegger aims for gold in first Dwarf World Cup
Local athlete one of three Canadians on North American team
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.”
Vivek Bhagria will compete on the North American team in the first-ever Dwarf World Cup.