World Dwarf Games open in Guelph

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – With spectators cheering enthusiastically on a seasonably cool Friday night, just under 430 athletes representing 20 countries marched into Alumni Stadium for the opening ceremonies for the seventh World Dwarf Games.

Among those who marched and spoke during the ceremonies was 51-year-old John Young. A transplanted Canuck who’s now living in the Boston area was the lone Canadian in the first World Dwarf Games held in Chicago in 1993.

“This was a lot more exciting because I’ve seen this whole movement grow from being a very small kind of thing that started in ’93 to something where we’ve got many more athletes and many more countries involved,” he said shortly after the end of the ceremonies. “It’s taken very seriously and it was real cool to kind of represent my home country at home and march into the stadium and see all those Canadian flags flying.”

Those first Games attracted 165 athletes representing 10 countries. Since then, the Games have been held in Peterborough, England, in 1997, Toronto in 2001, Paris in 2005, Belfast in 2009 and East Lansing, Mich., in 2013 where 16 countries and 395 athletes competed.

The Guelph meet marks a return to Games competition for Young as his athletic endeavours have led him down a different path – a long path.

“I really didn’t do much competing after Chicago,” he said. “Then in my mid-40s, I kind of got on a bit of a health kick and lost some weight. I’d always been a swimmer and I actually started in triathlon. In 2009, I did a sprint triathlon and I’ve kind of got hooked. Since then I’ve done over 40 of them and I did my first Ironman last October in Maryland. I’ve done the Boston Marathon four times, the New York Marathon twice and so ultra-distance endurance racing is kind of what I’m doing, but the fact these Games are at home, I didn’t want to toss up the chance to come and compete.”

In Chicago, Young participated in swimming and powerlifting and his schedule in is to include swimming, boccia and track and field where he’ll be racing in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 1,500 metres.

“The neat thing about the 1,500 metres is my son (Owen), who’s 14 and is competing for the U.S. will be in the same race against me,” John said. “I already know he’s going to win. He’s a faster runner than I am over long distance, but I’m just excited that I get a chance to share the field with him.”

There’ll be no boccia this time around for John.

“I’m spending time with family. I didn’t want to spread myself too thin.”

The Games attract athletes of all ages and many compete in a variety of sports and that helps lead to a competitive, friendly event.

“Rivalry is great, but what I like about these games and what I hope to see again is people from other countries just cheering each other on for good performances,” John said. “That’s what’s most important to me.”

Competition in the nine-day event starts Saturday and there’s usually two sports per day. All of this weekend’s competition will be held indoors with the University of Guelph athletic complex hosting badminton and boccia Saturday, boccia and basketball Sunday and badminton Monday. Archery is to be held in the Gryphon Fieldhouse Monday.