Zoe Elverum takes gold at Dwarf World Games

by James McCarthy- October 8, 2017

If you’ve never heard of the Dwarf World Games, you aren’t alone.

Zoe Elverum hadn’t heard of them either, until a chance encounter a few years ago made her aware of the Games, and she definitely made the most of her appearance.

Zoe Elverum, of Pond Inlet, right, waves the Canadian flag as she marches in with Team Canada during the opening ceremony of the Dwarf World Games in Guelph, Ont., in August. photo courtesy of Zoe Elverum

The 14-year-old from Pond Inlet was the only Nunavummiut to feature on Team Canada at the 2017 edition of the event in Guelph, Ont., back in August. It was a successful trip as she came home with two gold medals in floor hockey and soccer and two silver medals in javelin and volleyball.

Elverum has dwarfism and had gone to events in the past for dwarf athletes but she said a trip to California in 2014 was where she first learned about the Games.

“I had gone to smaller events in the U.S. and I spoke to some people in California and they told us about the Games being held in Guelph,” she said. “I asked my mom if I could go and she was supportive of it, but told me it would be expensive.”

Elverum got her ducks in a row to go to Ontarioby doing some fundraising and requesting donations from local sponsors.

“I contacted First Air to see if they could help me out in any way and they donated two tickets for me to go,” said Elverum. “That was really awesome for them to do that.”
With the air travel taken care of, the next step was paying for her time in Guelph: hotels, transportation, food, etc. Elverum started up a crowdfunding page on the suggestion of someone who made a stop in Pond Inlet during a cruise.

“Someone from the board of directors of Crystal Cruises heard about what I was doing and offered $200,” said Elverum. “She was the one who suggested I start up a crowdfunding page and she said she would get all of her friends to help out.”
That person was true to their word as several donations began popping up on the page, including a $1,000 donation from the president of Crystal Cruises.

“I reached my goal in four days,” said Elverum. “My mom was shocked that I got it so fast because she told me it would take a couple of weeks for donations to start coming in.”

After the financials were taken care of, it was time to begin training.

Zoe Elverum shows off one of her gold medals she won in floor hockey during competitions in August for the Dwarf World Games. photo courtesy of Zoe Elverum

Elverum’s original idea was to compete in track and field with javelin and shot put being her chosen events. Training for track and field isn’t exactly the same as it is in larger communities mainly because there isn’t access to the same sort of equipment you would find in larger centres such asToronto.

“My mom had a broken broomstick and that’s how I started training for javelin,” said Elverum. “It wasn’t the same because it was lighter and not the same size as a regular javelin.”
But, along came a harpoon which just happened to be in her parents’ possession and that was the perfect tool.

“It was perfect because it was much heavier than the broomstick and was close to what I needed,” she said.

To practice the run-up for throwing the javelin, Elverum would run along her driveway and then throw the harpoon.

For the shot put, she used a heavy round rock, which is close enough to a proper shot put, she added.

When it came time to register, Elverum had put herself down for track and field but those plans changed after getting a call from Irma van de Bon-Nicol, Team Canada’s chef de mission.

“She contacted me and said that there were plenty of empty spots in other sports like soccer, floor hockey, basketball, volleyball and badminton and asked if I would like to join in on any of those sports,” she said.

She decided to enter floor hockey, soccer and volleyball and it turned out to be a good choice as she was successful in all of those sports, including track and field.

The Dwarf World Games are similar in a sense to the Paralympics in that events are structured in a way that those with the same type of condition are competing together. Elverum has a type of dwarfism known as chondrodysplasia, which is a common form of dwarfism, and meant she competed with others of her size.

“They do have classification of taller and smaller for categories and I would never have competed in solo events against taller or smaller people,” she said. “For the team events, everyone competed together, regardless of size.”

Elverum said she had no expectations as to what she would see in Guelph but when it was all done, she said she was so humbled to represent not just her country, but the territory as well.

“There are no other little people in Pond Inlet and it was amazing to see the response I got when I came home,” she said. “Everyone was coming up to me and congratulating me and telling me I was an amazing representative of Nunavut.”
She also said an elder came up to her and wondered why there weren’t more events being run at the community hall for her, something Elverum said was nice to hear.

Something else people wanted to know back home was whether or not she saw the Roloff family. The Roloffs are the stars of the TLC series Little People, Big World and sure enough, Zack Roloff was in Guelph competing.

“He was playing soccer and basketball,” said Elverum. “Everyone I saw back home was asking me if I saw them or met them and of course, I told them I saw them. There was a big crowd of people around them all the time.”

Competing with Team Canada has given Elverum more motivation to continue with her athletic exploits with the ultimate goal being part of Team Canada at the 2024 Summer Paralympics in track and field. She would need to go to a sanctioned event in order to be considered, but she already knows what she wants to compete in.

“I want to do the field events in track and field,” she said. “I’m a terrible runner.”

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