LOFS resident, 9, wins big at World Dwarf Games
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent August 20, 2013 12:40PM
Liz Hedger, 9, of Lakes of the Four Seasons, participated in the World Dwarf Games held recently in East Lansing, Mich. She’s pictured participating in her favorite event, archery. | Photo provided
LAKES OF THE FOUR SEASONS — When 9-year-old Liz Hedger first started swimming, her father nicknamed her “Gator” to describe her freestyle stroke.
“She was chomping the water, rolling and thrashing around,” Brian Hedger, an LOFS resident, said.
During the just-concluded 2013 World Dwarf Games, held in East Lansing, Mich., Aug. 3 through 10, the vivacious youngster gave a new meaning to her nickname as she sliced through the pool waters with fierce determination and much more grace to capture her spoils: three medals for swimming, including a bronze for 25-meter freestyle.
Liz was one of almost 400 athletes of all ages from 17 countries participating in the World Dwarf Games, the largest event exclusively for people with dwarfism, according to the games’ web site. It is hosted by the Dwarf Athletic Association of America and is held in a different country every four years.
Liz was born with achondroplasia, the most common of more than 200 types of dwarfism, according to MayoClinc.com. The medical condition limits her adult height to about 4-feet, but not her enthusiasm or ability.
Liz competed in track and field, floor hockey, volleyball, swimming and archery, as Brian, mom Lisa Hedger, 3-year-old brother Chance Hedger and other family members cheered from the sidelines.
She captured nine medals in all, including gold medals in volleyball, floor hockey and Junior Girls tennis ball throw, setting a new World Dwarf Games record at 13.6 meters. She also received two silver medals and four bronze medals.
Liz also enjoyed bass fishing, saying she caught two “keepers.”
Liz said her favorite event was archery — the only one in which she didn’t take a medal, missing a bronze by just one point, said Brian, who coached her floor hockey team. She played against people of all ages, including adults, in archery.
“I was kind of nervous competing against adults, but I knew that whether I won or lost, I tried my best and it would be fun and I would be meeting people,” Liz said.
Brian said Liz trained the most for the swimming events. He was proud she won three medals in the sport, even though her goggles fell off in one event.
“She doesn’t stop. She doesn’t quit. She just keeps on going,” he said of the fourth-grader at Boone Grove Elementary School.
Liz’s mom, Lisa, said when Liz was born she and Brian were concerned that she wouldn’t be able to play sports.
“She’s proven us wrong,” Lisa said.
Liz played soccer and is on a softball team in LOFS. She is also on the Merrillville Marlins Swim Club, which meets at Merrillville High School.
Mark Rusin has coached Liz’s LOFS softball team, the Saucy Sluggers, for the last two years, and says Liz does very well in the sport.
“She doesn’t let anything hold her back. She can hold her own,” Rusin said.
“She can hit, field and throws very well,” he said of Liz, who usually plays second base or right field.