Dufferin athlete wins three medals at 2023 World Dwarf Games in Germany

August 10, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By: Paula Brown

A Shelburne teen is now a multi-medal holder after representing Canada on the international stage at a multisport competition in Europe.

Thirteen-year-old Gabriel McHughan returned home earlier this week from his appearance at the 2023 World Dwarf Games and brought with him four medals – three bronze and a silver.

“I feel like it was pretty fun, I got to see some of my friends and make new ones on Team Canada. I learned that I could do more than I thought I could in sports,” McHughan told the Free Press.

McHughan was among 46 Canadian athletes ages 7 to 62 with dwarfism who represented Canada at the multisport event in Cologne, Germany. He competed in 8 of the 10 events, including badminton, basketball, boccia, soccer, swimming, track and field, table tennis, and volleyball.

He received his bronze medals in boccia, basketball and soccer and his silver medal in volleyball.

One moment from the 2023 competition that McHughan noted as a highlight was when Team Canada won bronze in soccer, the same event they narrowly missed out on medalling in 2017. 

Discussing what the medal moment meant to him, McHughan said, “it means not giving up no matter if you win a medal or not – all that matters is that you had fun and did the best that you could.” 

McHughan first participated in the World Dwarf Games in 2017 when they were held in Guelph. At the time, he was the second youngest athlete to signup to compete for Team Canada and finished the games with a gold medal in floor hockey and two bronze medals in track and field.

McHughan said he hopes his two appearances at the World Dwarf Games can be an inspiration for other local youth.

“Whatever sports you like or want to try out for, you should do it. Don’t think ‘what if I don’t make it’, think positive and not negative about yourself.”

The World Dwarf Games (WDG) began in 1993 with the inaugural event held in the host city of Chicago, Illinois, featuring 165 athletes from ten countries. The games are held every four years in an elected host city.

The 2023 games marked the largest number of participants in attendance at the event, with over 530 athletes from 29 countries competing.

Despite the number of athletes and countries participating in the competition steadily growing over the last 20 years, the World Dwarf Games continues to be lesser known than other international multisport events.

This means the athletes miss out on significant sponsorship dollars, and the cost of attending the games, including travel and accommodations, often falls on the athletes and their families.

“This is kind of the only platform where it’s an even playing field for him to be able to compete against other athletes that are just like him. It’s one hundred per cent funded by the athletes to go and it’s unfortunate that they’re not as recognized as other athletes,” said Crystal McHughan, Gabe’s mother.

She noted that for her and Gabe to attend the competition in Germany, it cost them roughly $10,000.

With the next World Dwarf Games expected to be held in Australia, the McHughan family is gearing down to begin fundraising to attend the sporting event in four years. The family will be doing various fundraising initiatives locally starting in October, which marks Dwarfism Awareness Month.

The next World Dwarf Games is expected to be held in 2027.

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