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'A shock': Local youth earns eight medals at World Dwarf Games

‘This would hopefully be a stepping stone for the Paralympics one day,’ said proud mother of Christian Tabone

Bradford’s Christian Tabone brought home plenty of hardware from the World Dwarf Games in Germany recently.

The event ran from July 28 to Aug. 5 at the Deutsche Sport Hochschule (German Sports University) in Cologne Germany, where more than 500 athletes with dwarfism from 20 countries competed in 13 different categories, each with multiple events.

Dwarfism is a condition characterized by shorter than normal skeletal growth which can result from a genetic or medical condition.

After registering for nearly every event in his age range, Christian, 12, earned eight medals for team Canada in as many different events including:

  • Frisbee Throw: Gold
  • Swimming — 25 m Butterfly: Silver
  • Volleyball: Silver
  • Boccia: Bronze
  • Soccer: Bronze
  • Shuttle Relay: Bronze
  • Tennis Ball Throw: Bronze
  • Basketball: Bronze

“I felt excited and I was all like ‘Yes!’ ” Christian said of winning the medals, noting his gold came from an unexpected event.

“I was really excited, because I never played Frisbee at all. I mostly played baseball and thought I would do well at tennis ball throw. For me, I just saw a regular Frisbee and I just threw it,” he said.

While having an entire stadium of people watching him compete and teammates depend on him meant “the pressure was on,” Christian had a simple tactic to overcoming his nerves.

“I just ignored it, or thought of different things in my mind,” he said.

That strategy helped find him a frequent place on the podium, but there wasn’t always a lot of time to celebrate, as his mother Sophia Tabone explained Christian had at least one event on each of the nine days that he was there, including one day with five soccer games, back to back.

“We put him in everything, because we said ‘you’re going all the way to Germany, even if you don’t do well ... you’re going all the way there, so you might as well try every event,’ and that’s what he did,” she said.

Sophia said the number of medals Christian earned took her by surprise, since he hadn’t even trained for some of the events, and in most he was on the youngest end of his 12-15 age group.

“He did really well. We didn’t expect any gold to be brutally honest. We were like ‘just go and try your best.’ It was a shock in some of the things that he came out with,” she said.

Sophia stayed back with their other three children while Christian’s father, Mike Tabone, accompanied him in Germany and sent regular updates to Sohpia at the end of each day via text message, which she usually received early in the morning due to the time difference.

“When I would get up, then I would find out. A lot of the times it would happen in the morning. I was just waking up and they would be pretty much done their day,” she said.

Sophia was thankful she could also watch some of the events streamed on the World Dwarf Games website, and felt Germany did a “great job” of hosting the games.

Christian competed in both solo and team events, but said he preferred working on a team.

“Then not all the pressure is on me, and at least you have backup in case you can’t get the thing done,” he said, adding that his favourite event was badminton, which he compared to baseball, but without as much running.

In addition to competing in as many events as he could and participating in the opening flag-running ceremony, Christian also manged to find time to enjoy visiting a chocolate museum, a cathedral, various restaurants and the famous Hohenzollern Bridge — also known as the Love Locks Bridge.

“I was tired, because I had to wake up so early, and there was so much walking. I don’t know how much hours of sleep I had, but it was tiring,” he said.

Going all the way to Germany was a bit of a change from when he participated in the previous World Dwarf Games in Guelph in 2017 when he was just five.

In addition to competing in more events, a simple road trip was replaced with a six-hour flight, for which the family was able to partially cover the cost through fundraising.

“We just did some small fundraising,” Sophia said, explaining they held two five-kilometre runs and sold T-shirts online and at St. Angela Merici Catholic School, where Christian attends.

“We raised over $1,000, and that covered his flight one way. A lot of our school supported by buying t-shirts,” she said.

While the games are usually held every four years, the International Dwarf Sports Federation delayed the 2021 games due to the pandemic, leading them to be held this year instead.

“They did delay it so it could be an actual real good experience, which I’m also thankful for. Hopefully, going forward it will just be every four years,” Sophia said.

By then the games are set to take place even farther away in Australia, and Christian will be 16, qualifying him to compete with the adults in many categories, which Sophia expects would be an even greater test of his abilities.

“This would hopefully be a stepping stone for the Paralympics one day. This is the one opportunity every four years from all over the world, where it’s an even playing field for him. Because in every day sports he’s constantly competing in sports with averaged-sized teammates. When they run and he runs, he has to put that much more effort into it. This is a good opportunity for all people with any type of skeletal difference to be able to compete, especially dwarfism,” she said.

Next July, the family is also planning to attend the annual National Dwarf Games in Baltimore Md., organized by the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA).

In the meantime, Christian continues to play baseball with the Bradford Tigers and ball hockey with the New Tecumseth Ball Hockey League.

He’s been involved in sports since age three when he started playing blast ball.

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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