Carter Morrison went from ambassador to athlete this summer, when he competed at the 2017 World Dwarf Games August 4 to 12 in Guelph, Ontario. The 13-year-old Carlyle resident brought home eight medals - three gold, four silver and one bronze - and says: “It was pretty cool when I was competing against people my own size and with the same ability as me.”
Carter - who was born with achondroplasia - helped lead Canada's Olympic team at the opening ceremonies at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, as a Ronald McDonald House ambeassador. This summer, he competed at the World Dwarf Games against 430 athletes from 19 countries, in his own age category and in open categories.
The Games in Guelph welcomed competitors from “from ages four to 99” from thoughout the world. The World Dwarf Games is the largest sporting event in history exclusively for athletes with dwarfism. Some of Carter's competitors were elite athletes who have competed in the Paralympic Games and the Parapan Am Games. Carter relished the opportunity to compete among his peers and participated in the following events: badminton (singles and doubles), boccia (team and singles), basketball, archery, marksmanship, soccer, floor hockey, running (60 metres, individual and relay), discus, shot put, javelin, volleyball, table tennis and kurling (in which rocks with wheels are used).
He earned gold medals in boccia (singles), floor hockey and soccer. Carter stepped up for silver medals in table tennis (singles), badminton (doubles), basketball and floor hockey. He earned a bronze medal for boccia (team).
“In four years, at the next Games, I probably won't do all those sports,” says Carter. “I'll pick a couple to compete in and go from there. But this was a good experience and a chance to see what I could do.”
Prior to the Games, Carter trained hard. His mother, Lisa Morrison, says: “Mrs. (Shelley) Sargent worked with Carter for weeks training for track and field, in order to prepare him to compete at that level.”
“He didn't win a medal in every sport, but he really wanted to compete,” explains Lisa. “He's competitive and he wanted to win, but he also wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to compete against athletes of all different levels to see where he fits in and what he's capable of.”
“And in shot put and javelin, he threw his personal best,” she says, adding: “Going from not even knowing what the sport is, to competing at that level...”
Carter's father, Trevor Morrison adds: “It was awesome seeing Carter getting to compete among his own community of people. The Games were very competitive, but everybody was really proud of each other and supportive.”
“But the competition's tough,” says Trevor. “Everybody plays to win and they don't get medals for participation.”
Carter's medal rally started on the first day of competition, when he received a bronze medal for team boccia.
“Day one and that medal set the tone for the whole week,” says Lisa. “He knew then that he had an opportunity. The week started on such a high note and it stayed that way.”
All events were held at the University of Guelph campus and for the Morrisons, days began at 6 a.m. and ended at 9 p.m.
“The opening ceremonies were impressive,” says Trevor, who accompanied his son to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. “It was exciting to see who was there and who made it to the competition.”
“There were 22 countries registered to attend,” explains Trevor. “But only 19 were able to make it because of finances and visas.”
“One country had one athlete and the USA had a really big team. Really, the sense of competition and friendship was a lot like the Olympics,” says Trevor. “Just like any other big competition, the athletes are there to win, but there were a lot of friendships made there, too.”
“It had the same vibe, but these Games - and the Paralympics - just don't get the same recognition (as the Olympics).”
“It was really humbling,” adds Lisa. “To meet people who took out loans so their child could participate in these Games and compete against athletes who are physically like them.”
The Games rely on volunteers and both Trevor and Lisa stepped up, with Trevor coaching his son's teams.
“I coached mixed teams in soccer, floor hockey, basketball and volleyball,” says Trevor. “And marksmanship.”
Trevor coached Team Canada to gold level status in soccer and floor hockey and silver medal status in basketball and volleyball.
Carter says of his father's coaching: “I like him as a coach. He's also my dad, but I don't get any special treatment. He takes it really serious, but I like that, because I'm really serious, too.”
Both Trevor and Lisa say a highlight was Canada's gold medal soccer win against the U.S.
“Team USA beat Canada 1-0 in the semi-final,” explains Trevor. “In the final game, the score was 0-0 after regulation time and overtime. Then it went to penalty kicks and the fifth kid, the last kid, got it in the net for Canada.”
“On the final day, to have that gold medal game end in double overtime and a kick-out was amazing,” says Lisa. “Especially because Canada was kind of like the underdog. The U.S. had a big team and a good team and they came to win that soccer gold medal.”
For Carter, the entire experience is filled with highlights. “One of the things I'll remember most is winning that first medal ever,” he says. “It was a real high point for me because I'd never really played boccia before and I earned a bronze medal.”
“On the last day, winning gold in soccer was really fun,” says Carter. “The US beat us 1-0 in the round robin and we won after double overtime and penalty kicks.”
“But really, the whole thing was cool,” explains Carter. “In all of the sports, I competed against some good buddies of mine who are the same size. We were both competing, both playing hard, but after the game, we're good buddies again. And in team sports, it was the same, with our own team or the opposition team.”
“It was pretty cool, because I was competing against people my own size who have the same ability as me.”
“Carter loves to play, loves to compete and loves to win,” says Lisa. “I got to see him happy for the whole week, and there's nothing better than seeing your kid happy.”
“You couldn't wipe the smile off his face.”
“Nobody's stepped up yet to host the Games in four year's time,” says Trevor. “But we're going to be there.”