Kiski Area grad to compete in World Dwarf Games
Stephen Winkle is a big sports fan.
The 19-year-old enjoys playing basketball and soccer, and he joined the tennis team at his alma mater, Kiski Area, as a sophomore. He served as a team manager for the Cavaliers football and boys basketball teams and the Kiski Valley girls rugby squad.
Winkle, a 2017 Kiski grad, also is an ardent supporter of the Pittsburgh Passion women's semipro football team.
When it comes to playing the sports he loves, however, his stature can work against him.
Winkle is a dwarf, and at 4 feet, he is sometimes 2 feet shorter than his teammates or opponents.
But not this week.
The seventh World Dwarf Games at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, give Winkle the chance to compete against others his size.
“A lot of the other athletes that come here also play sports against taller people,” Winkle said. “This week, we don't have the challenges we normally have. We don't have to worry about trying to make a basket over someone who is 6 feet or taller. I can do what everyone else can do but in a different way. It really gives us confidence that we can go out there and do our best.”
Winkle is one of 125 U.S. athletes of all ages at the games this week. They began Aug. 4 with opening ceremonies, and they conclude Saturday.
“It was such an amazing feeling (at the opening ceremonies),” Winkle said. “I felt blessed. I was excited and hyped up for the games. Just being able to represent my country and hopefully win a medal is special.”
Winkle is competing in basketball, soccer, volleyball, table tennis and hockey. Other sports available this week include badminton, power lifting, bocce and archery.
“Some people have entered every sport,” Winkle said. “There is no limit.”
He has entered the table tennis tournament that is set to play out over the next couple of days.
“It is a fast-paced game with a lot of movement,” Winkle said. “I can't wait to see how I do.”
His other sports are in a team format. Whole teams often assemble before the games and enter as a unit, but as a solo competitor, Winkle was placed on teams that formed with others in his situation.
“That is a great way to meet new people,” he said.
Winkle said he and the other athletes from the countries with larger athlete contingents such as England, the U.S. and Canada have rallied around the single athlete from countries such as Austria and Kazakstan.
“We cheer on every country,” Winkle said. “We're all family here. We are just happy to have the chance to play sports.”
The World Dwarf Games are in Canada for the second time. They were held in Toronto in 2001. The first games were in Chicago in 1993 with 10 countries and 165 athletes. It has grown to 430 athletes from 22 countries.
“He's had neck surgery, leg surgery and back surgery, but he keeps going,” said Stephen's mother, Tina.
“He's like the energizer bunny. He's always been sports oriented, and I think (the world games) is awesome. He doesn't give up. He does what he can the way he can do it. It's great to see him have so much fun this week.”
Winkle will be attending Pittsburgh Institute of Technology starting in October. He is chronicling his experiences at the World Dwarf Games on Twitter @stephen05455.