Edgeworth Elementary student strikes gold at World Dwarf Games

Katherine Valli, 10, poses in front of her Edgeworth home with the 10 medals she earned while participating in the 2013 World Dwarf Games at Michigan State University earlier this month.
Katherine Valli, 10, poses in front of her Edgeworth home with the 10 medals she earned while participating in the 2013 World Dwarf Games at Michigan State University earlier this month.
Photo by Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 7:39 a.m.

Fifth-grader Katherine Valli recently celebrated big victories at the 2013 World Dwarf Games at Michigan State University.

Katherine, daughter of Alison and Bo (Robert) Valli of Edgeworth, brought home 10 medals from the 10-day competition, held earlier this month. She has achondroplasia — the most common form of dwarfism. Standing at 3 feet, 8 inches, Katherine, 10, may be little, but her mother said that is the only thing small about her daughter.

“She's got big attitude and big spirit,” she said.

Although this is the first time Katherine — who attends Edgeworth Elementary — competed in the event, she earned individual gold medals in javelin (a new sport for her), cricket, Frisbee, badminton singles and table tennis; partner gold in mixed doubles badminton; team gold in floor hockey; and team silver in soccer, basketball and volleyball.

“It was exciting and a pretty good experience. I would do it more than once. And, it was fun meeting people from other countries,” Katherine said.

Presented by the Dwarf Athletic Association of America, the games are held every four years. This is the first time the games took place in the United States since they debuted 20 years ago, also at Michigan State.

This year, more than 400 athletes from 17 countries competed, with 204 from the United States scoring 415 medals.

Avonworth High School seniors Will and Max Graf, 17, also competed. Max won two bronze medals for team bocce and shooting. Will won two gold for individual bocce and hockey.

Katherine said her favorite competitions were badminton, basketball and soccer.

A member of the Robert Morris University Island Colonials Ice Hockey League for three years, Katherine has competed four times at the annual DAAA National Games.

To date, she has won 12 medals and had a chance to play flag football at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, during last year's competition.

Held at the Little People of America Inc. national conference in a different state each year, the national games offer athletes a variety of individual and team sports.

Katherine said her next goal is the Paralympics, an international event in which athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities compete in sporting events. Although any little person can compete in the national and world games, athletes must qualify for the Paralympic Games, planned for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. The next world competition will be held in Australia in 2017.

“These competitions are the only time she is ever able to play on an even playing field with athletes her own size,” said Alison, president of the local chapter of Little People of America Inc., a national nonprofit organization providing support and information to people of short stature and their families.

“Her legs, arms are approximately half the size of her average-sized peers, so even though she is quite the athlete, she very rarely has the chance to test her abilities on a level playing field with other dwarf athletes. I always say it's not how big you are, it's how big you play,” Alison said.

Katherine said there are good and bad things about being a little person.

She said she likes being able to get into small places and competing in the dwarf games, but she doesn't like getting made fun of and not being able to see things up high because she's not tall enough.

“But, I'm fine with it,” she said. “I just tell people God made me the way I am.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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