Joel Turney, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Schrop Elementary in Springfield, recently came home from Canada with some impressive, shiny medals.
In August, Turney competed in the the 7th World Dwarf Games at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ont.
Like the summer and winter Olympics, the dwarf games are held every four years, and this year, 26 countries attended. This was the first time that the games were held close enough for Turney to participate, and it was full steam ahead as he participated in basketball, soccer, track and field, swimming, floor hockey, badminton (doubles and singles) and bocce ball.
"It was very nice, everyone was so nice, it was great," said Joel's mom, Jennifer Turney.
Jennifer Turney said each year Joel will do have some sporting events but just against other kids from the U.S. and that those were nothing like the Dwarf Olympics, which are presented by the Dwarfism Athletic Association of America and Little People of America. All the funding is raised through donations.
Going into the game, Joel did not know anyone at the Olympics, but he said he quickly made friends. When they arrived, Jennifer told officials that Joel would be willing to join in with others if they needed teammates. He was placed with two girls from Canada and they became fast friends. Jennifer said Joel hung out with them all week long and continues to Facetime them. He also met Charlie, from England, and he talks with him on Facetime as well.
"He had a great time. Everyone was his size," Jennifer said.
Joel, who is very social and is active with the Sparkle Cheer Squad, has achondroplasia, which is a form of short-limbed dwarfism. He played soccer in Springfield youth leagues for a couple of years, but as Jennifer explained, "everybody could run so much faster than him and had bigger stamina."
There are 634 types of dwarfism and Jennifer said usually with achondroplasia, "You are just short."
Heading into the games, Jennifer reminded Joel not to be upset if he did not win a medal and that it was just cool to be able to compete. Joel, however, did more than just compete as he came home with a gold in basketball, a silver in floor hockey, silver in soccer and a bronze in swimming.
During the last night they were there, a banquet was held and the city of Guelph threw a street party for the families, which included rides on the Fire Department's ladder truck.
"It was nice watching it all," Jennifer said.
Jennifer said he was so excited. Joel agreed saying he had fun, but when asked what his favorite part was he said swimming, which was with his new friends at the hotel.
While Joel has a lot of friends at school and competes athletically with the other kids, Jennifer said he just can't do so on the same level. But, for those nine days in Guelph, Jennifer said everyone played and participated on the same level.
Jennifer added that she cried a lot during the week as she witness kindness among the competitors. One example, Jennifer said, was about a girl who was the last finisher in a race, but everybody was encouraging her to finish. A boy, who had won a couple medals in other events, went over and gave the girl one of his medals.
There was a lot of that. Just a lot of goodwill," Jennifer said.
Joel said he had fun at the games, but when asked what his favorite part was, he said swimming with his new friends at the hotel. Though, he also said he was proud to be able to stand on the medal platform and hearing the Star Spangled Banner play.
Overall, the entire family, which also includes siblings Josie and Jay and dad, Jamie, enjoyed the opportunity to make the trip to Canada and also getting to visit Niagara Falls. Joel was also excited to bring home some Canadian maple syrup.
"It was great all the way around. If we can manage to go the next time around we would love to," said Jennifer, who said the next games will either be in Australia or Brazil.