Shelburne superstar strikes gold at World Dwarf Games

August 18, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

There is a brand new world champion walking the streets of Shelburne after little Gabe McHughan, alongside his Team Canada teammates, captured Junior A gold in floor hockey at the 2017 World Dwarf Games last week.

Taking place in Guelph from August 4 to 12, the Games took Canada by storm, as 467 athletes representing 20 nations buckled down and showed wide-eyed spectators just what little people can do. Seven-year-old Gabe was among them, blowing people away with his hard work, grit and determination to win.

When all was said and done, that commitment had earned Gabe three medals in total. He snagged bronze in the 20-metre sprint and 20-metre relay to complement his floor hockey gold. Sitting in his living room, smile etched on his face, Shelburne’s newest superstar did his best to recap his extraordinary week.

“It was so much fun,” he told the Citizen. “My favourite part was getting the medals, but I had fun playing in all the games and meeting a lot of new friends.”

Alongside floor hockey and track and field, Gabe also represented Team Canada in soccer, curling, basketball and boccia. He was one of the youngest competitors in his age bracket, competing at the Jr. A level, open to athletes between the ages of 7 and 11. Cheered on by mom Crystal, dad Matt and sister Harper, Gabe had a ton of support as several other friends, family and community members made the short trip south to cheer on the local athlete.

While expectations were already high heading into what was the family’s first World Dwarf Games, Crystal said the event itself exceeded all expectations.

“I said it before, but this event is kind of like the Olympics for little people and it really shows with how well run and how well organized it is,” Ms. McHughan said. “We had Gabe in a ton of different events and I don’t recall there being a single issue the entire week. He had so much fun and met so many new people. It was worth it just for the connections he made, never mind the fact he won a gold and two bronze medals!”

And while he did win three medals, he only had the two when showing them off on Tuesday (August 15). The reason may just melt your heart.

A close friend Aria, whom he knows through the Little People of Ontario, was also in Guelph competing over the course of the week. The seven-year-old mostly featured in swimming competitions and was on course to win a bronze medal of her own, until the Games made a late change to its ranking classification. The move knocked Aria out of medal contention, devastating the youngster.

It wasn’t until later that day that Aria and her mom Sarah met up with Gabe, Crystal and Matt. Sarah was recounting the story of Aria’s situation when Gabe overheard what had happened. What followed was probably one of the purest acts of friendship I’ve ever seen.

“I guess Gabe overheard what happened to Aria while I was talking to her mom. He started walking over to Aria, I could see they were talking a little and then, out of nowhere, he took one of his bronze medals off over his head and gave it to Aria,” Crystal said. “There was no prompting, no suggestion that he should give her a medal, nothing. As soon as I saw what was happening and realized what he’d done I started bawling my eyes out. You always hope that your kid is going to make good choices, but when you see them do something so selfless and kind… That just blew me away.”

Gabe was pretty calm about the situation, taking more of a mathematical view of it all.

“Aria didn’t have any medals and I had three. I gave one of my medals to her because I didn’t really need three. I had too many already,” Gabe said. “I did it because I wanted to, but it was nice. I asked her if she wanted one of the medals and she started to cry, but then was happy and jumping around. I think she liked it.”

And so, with this year’s offerings now behind them the McHughan family were looking forward to the future, with Crystal stating they would “absolutely” make sure they travel to wherever the next World Dwarf Games are hosted, in 2021.

“We’re definitely going to be doing this again, absolutely,” Crystal said. “This was such an overwhelming week. Gabe did such an amazing job in the events he competed in and he had such an incredible experience – no matter where it is, we’re going to make sure we’re there.”

She added, “Sports are something that Gabe is incredible passionate about and I want him to be able to pursue them as much as he wants. This event gives him the opportunity to compete alongside people just like him, it’s such a special event. We’re already looking forward to 2021.”

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