Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Interview With Samantha Lilly - Australian Athlete for the 2013 World Dwarf Games

Sam in 2009 with one of her medals for swimming

Let me introduce Samantha Lilly, a work colleague who is flying over to the US in August to represent Australia at the World Dwarf Games. Until Sam started fundraising in order to pay her flights, I didn't even know there were World Dwarf Games. Sam has very kindly agreed to answer my questions about the games and how training as a person of short stature is different to other world athletes.

1.       Okay, pretending that you happen to be speaking to someone who has never heard of it before, can you give a brief history of the World Dwarf Games?

The world dwarf games are an international event, exclusively for those whom have a condition of dwarfism. The games in Lansing, Michigan, USA this year, will be the 6th international games. Previous cities who hosted the games include Rambouillett (France), Chicago (USA), Peterborough (UK), Toronto (Canada) and Belfast (N. Ireland). The sports offered are archery, badminton, basketball, kurling, soccer, athletics (track & field), boccia, shooting, powerlifting, floor hockey, table tennis, volleyball and swimming.

If you have anymore questions

Similar to the Olympics - the WDG games are held every four years, and are awarded to a country and city via bids, proposals and suitability to hold the games. Melbourne has put in a bid to hold the 2017 games! Fingers crossed! Athletes stay in a 'games village' which is equipped with individual bedrooms, dining hall and an array of sports facilities.

(Go Melbourne!)

2.       Just out of interest, historically is the Australian team any good in world standing? 

Surprisingly, the Australian contingent is very new to sport on such a global scale. Belfast in 2009 was the first time Australia has sent a team to the games. We went not knowing what to expect, and did extremely well, considering. Australia only sent athletes whom were competing in swimming, athletics, basketball, powerlifting and boccia. In Belfast - 15 athletes were competing in an array of sports, and came away with a total of 24 medals. For our first attempt at sport on a global scale, we were thrilled.
2009 Australian team

3.       Tell us a bit about you, Sam. How did you get involved?

When I was born (24 years ago), my parents joined me up as a member to the Short Statured People of Australia Association - as a way of understanding that I wasn't alone. This enabled me to share experiences, ask questions. To me, this has been an incredible avenue for friendships, as well as an opportunity to play sport with people of my own height. This is something I never experienced at school or other sports teams.

For the first time, in 2009 Australia sent a team to the games. Being a competitive swimming - I decided to swim six events (crazy, I know) and managed to come away with five gold medals and a silver medal.

I was initially hesitant about participating in the games in Ireland. I have always struggled to accept the word 'dwarf'. Although it is medically correct - I do tend to find it rather impersonal and to an extent, trivial. I have grown up with 'short statured' being a term I feel more comfortable with. This however, is entirely personal preference.

Despite standing at just over a meter tall - I lead a very normal, healthy and happy life. I hold a full-time job (which she does excellently!), have traveled the world. I have a black belt in taekwondo, a degree, have gone sky-diving and have friends and family whom are incredibly supportive. I refuse to let my height stand in the way of a normal life and opportunities it may present. For instance, next year I am planning on doing a safari in Kenya, as well as some conservation work.

4.       What is the training program like?

The training program is ever-so hectic and at times, relentless. Balancing full-time work, and being an -almost-full-time athlete is very demanding and exhausting. Everyday after work - I will train, and I will attempt to finish for the day sometime before dinner. Coming from a swimming background - the intense and exhaustive nature of a training regime isn't a new experience. It is important to get adequate sleep each night, of a good quality and ensure that my diet is varied and nutritionally complete. I guess my bachelor of Food Science and Nutrition does help me out with this, and I am able to unleash my inner-nerd.
5.       Are there differences in training as a person of small stature? Is it harder to put on muscle, etc?

Yes & no! I feel that I will train just as hard as a person of average stature. However, I do feel fatigue is something I need to be aware of. Interestingly, people of short stature have intense trouble keeping their weight down. Remembering, legs are small - it is crucial to keep lean body mass at a minimum. This is done largely through diet.

Furthermore, stretching post-training is incredibly important. As my muscle length is quite short - due to short bones, it is extremely important to keep these muscles flexible. Otherwise, training is the same as any other athlete competing on a global scale.

6.       What’s the most common question you get asked when you tell people you a World Games athlete?

'There is such a thing?" and then "So, is that like the Olympics?"  and then "Wow - you must train hard" The answers are Yes, yes & yes! Prior to 2007, I hadn't heard of the WDG either - it is understandable that people are curious.

7.       If people want to support the team, how can they do that?

Due to the sparse geographical nature of Australia, all athletes have had to fork out a lot of money to attend training camps - hosted in various states in order to train together. This tends to be rather important when playing a team sport, such as soccer!

The team has received no formal funding to represent their country at the WDG in 2013. Therefore, the games experience does hit a rather sore-hip-pocket-nerve. The team is desperately seeking funds, in which other sporting teams representing their country are entitled to.

If anyone has any ideas on how they, or someone they know can support the team - please call me on 0400826912.

A gala dinner is being held in order to raise funds to support the Australian team - and an auction will be held (silent & vocal). At this dinner, the team will officially be presented and awarded their Australian uniform. If anyone has any items/services that are able to be auctioned - please give me a call.

If anyone is interested in helping out, feel free to email me at, call Sam or email the Australian team's coordinators (listed below). Watching how hard Sam is training each day while managing a full time job is impressive and deserves all support she can get!

Here's more information from the Australian team's press release:

The 2013 World Dwarf Games will be hosted by the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA) and held between 3––10 August at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA. The sixth World Dwarf Games will be conducted under the auspices of the International Dwarf Athletic Federation (IDAF) with recognised events sanctioned by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Michigan State University will play host to this event which houses over 50,000 students and has one of the largest sporting programs in the USA. IDAF President Arthur Dean, has declared that ““the DAAA (has) presented us with world class venues, ready to host a world class event. (Our) dwarf athletes will turn it into a world class competition.””

Australia’’s Team Manager, Rob Millard promises that ““Team Australia is committed to raising the bar of competition, integrity and passion. Our athletes are fully committed to their preparations and are
focused on continuing Australia’’s sharp rise on the world stage”” he added.

It is anticipated that both national trainings and the games themselves will cost athletes individually
$5,000. Team Australia’’s fundraising campaign has a target of $160,000. The team welcome donations and sponsorship –– further information, including a full sponsorship proposal, can be obtained from the contact details below.

Samuel Millard, National Sports Coordinator:
Meredith Young, National President:


  1. hi, sir how r u, I am Prakash from India in Bangalore, so I am Selection for the world dwarf Olympic games in America, so how to get the indian companies in Sponsor, this my life in one Aim sir, total sponsor the Money 3000 thousand USA Dollars, so plz tel me sir how to get the Appointment in big companies in& take the sponsor pls tel me sir& help me sir this my life in one big Aim sir.

    1. Thanks Prakash. The World Dwarf Games website actually has a lot of information on personal fundraising (see, and the Indian team is quite large I hear, so I'm sure they'll be organising events to help. Try contacting Venkatesh K Yethiraj,