Dwarf Games Come Home

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At the conclusion of the 2009 World Dwarf Games in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Amy Andrews was encouraged to put in a bid for Michigan to host the next event.

"We thought wouldn't it be cool to bring it back home to Michigan State where it started," said Andrews, president of the Dwarf Athletic Association of America.

And four years later, after three years of planning, the sixth World Dwarf Games are ready to open Saturday morning.

"It gives those athletes with dwarfism the opportunity to compete eye-to-eye," Andrews said. "And give them the opportunity to compete in those sports that they may not have made the team growing up based on their height and based on their limitations. This gives them the ability to do that."

Andrews is competing herself, as she did in Belfast where she won a gold medal. She is one of many participants who can clearly remember the roots of the Games. She was at the 1984 International Disabled Games, when the Little People of America Foundation was asked to take part.

The next year, East Lansing hosted the Cerebral Palsy/Les Autres National Games, the first instance of dwarf-only events. The Dwarf Games took off from there. The first world competition was held in 1993 in Chicago and has been held every four years since.

"It feels awesome, being here at Michigan State," said Allie Allemon, a competitor. "It feels cool. This is my town."

This year, athletes of all ages -- some as young as five -- will compete in any of 13 different events, from archery to volleyball and floor hockey to table tennis.

"It's equal competition versus being thrown into the average size world where everybody is always doing so much better than you are," said Collin O'Connell, who is competing for the first time this year. "And now you have a field you can actually compete in and have a fighting chance to win."

More than 500 participants from more than 25 countries are taking part, including Samantha Lilly, who flew 30 hours from Melbourne, Australia to be here.

"It's very exciting, very surreal," she said. "We've been counting down for years now. I remember when it was 72 weeks and it's tomorrow so it's very very exciting and almost hard to believe."

The World Dwarf Games open at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and run through August 10. All events are free and open to the public. A full schedule can be found at a link below.

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