Adam Pavicic feels it’s time to pick on somebody his own size. That usually means taking on tougher competition but, in this case, it could make things easier for the Hopewell Valley Central High rising sophomore.
At slightly over 4 feet tall, Pavicic is a member of the basketball and track & field team for Team USA in the World Dwarf Games, which is sponsored by the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA). The games will take place in Guleph, Ontario, Canada from Aug. 5–12.
This will be the first time Pavicic competes in basketball and track against other little people. He has spent time preparing for the games by running with the HVCHS track and field team and by playing pick-up games near his house.
“I am excited to be going to a new place, going to Canada, which is cool,” he said. “I’m kind of nervous because I’ve never really had that much experience with competing, especially in sports. I’ve never played basketball really until now.
“But I’m excited because this is my first time ever competing against people my size. It’s something I always wished that I did earlier. I really didn’t get into sports until now. I know I would be at a huge disadvantage because of my height in basketball. But at this I thought I’d be good at it because I’ll be competing against people my size. And I just found that I liked the sport a lot.”
Pavicic was born into a sports-minded family. His sister Peri runs for the Rider University track team, and brother Michael was on the Bulldogs’ record-setting 4×800 relay team this past spring. But he came into the world at an athletic disadvantage when he was diagnosed with disproportionate dwarfism the day he was born.
The clinical name is achondroplasia, which occurs in one of 45,000 births but is still the most common form of dwarfism. Probably the most famous man alive with the condition these days is Peter Dinklage, the star of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
“His torso is average size, but it’s a shortening of the upper thigh and upper arms,” his mom, Diane, explained. “If you’re sitting down at a table across from him, he’s an average size person because it’s an average size torso. But standing he would be smaller than you.”
Pavicic had a tough start to his life. He had some early breathing problems, which Diane said is common. But because achondroplasia can affect other bones in the body aside from arms and legs, Pavicic had to undergo spinal neurosurgery at 11 weeks old. He came through it in good health and led a very active childhood.
“Athletics runs in my family. All the kids were very athletic and active. I don’t know where it came from. Not from me and not from my husband. A lot of people in my family run track, so I guess it skipped my generation…or skipped me,” said Diane, who is a property manager and designer. Adam’s father, Perry, is a builder and developer.
Since there were few little people for Pavicic to interact with, he attended summer camp for children with dwarfism and their families. He would play baseball and soccer, but not competitively, just for fun. He also participated in archery, karate and grappling.
“That was really the only opportunity he had to play with a bunch of kids his own size,” Diane said. “But throughout his whole life Adam always did everything the same as everybody else. He’s just like every other kid.”
At Timberlane Middle School, Pavicic started to realize his size difference in gym class. He was also on the school’s lacrosse team and he played rec soccer with children bigger than him. This past year at HVCHS he became the manager of the freshman basketball team. He would watch the games and practices intently and realized he enjoyed the sport.
‘I’m excited because this is my first time ever competing against people my size. It’s something I always wished that I did earlier.’
By then, Pavicic knew he was going to compete in the World Games. He began playing hoops in the park and training with his older siblings on the track.
“It wasn’t hard getting in the pick-up games because they were mostly playing for fun,” Pavicic said. “It was hard sometimes for me to get the ball and it was harder to get shots off with all those bodies in front of me. But now they’ll all be my size.”
He also ran the 100 and 200 for the Bulldogs track team.
HoVal coach Aaron Oldfield says Pavicic a great all-around kid who has a great work ethic. Pavicic says his sister and brother have been a big help. “They help with my form, and my stretching and things like that,” he said.
Pavicic had decided last summer to sign up for the World Dwarf Games, which do not require any qualifying. The DAAA holds National Dwarf Games every other year and World Dwarf Games every four, and this is the year for the World games. The condition of short stature, defined by the advocacy group Little People of America, is an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches or under, as a result of a medical or genetic condition. The average height of an adult with dwarfism is 4 feet.
Those who compete at the World Games do so for different reasons. Some go for fun, others use it as a qualifier for the Paralympics. The Games are broken down by age level and Pavicic will be competing in the Open Adult Class, for those 16 and older. He turns 16 after the competition is over but anyone who turns 16 in August is put in that group, meaning he will be one of the youngest in the competition in that group.
Initially, his track races will be with teens, Diane said. But if he advances he could end up competing against adults. In addition to track and basketball, Pavicic will also be trying his hand at archery and marksmanship.
“It will be tough competition for sure, but he’s just going up for fun,” Diane said. “This is just for the experience, but I think it will be the beginning of a yearly thing for him.”
Adam agreed. “I just want to have a good time. This is my first time ever competing (seriously with little people),” he said. “I’ve never done something like this when I was younger, so I think it will be just for fun.”