KEARNEY — Playing sports has been a passion of Emme Brown’s since she was young. A fierce competitor, Brown doesn’t back down from a challenge, despite her limitations.
Brown has fought through adversity on the court and in life throughout her 19 years of existence. Born with achondroplasia dwarfism, playing sports and living in a world built for average height individuals hasn’t been easy for Brown.
That hasn't stopped her, however. She's competed against normal stature athletes for years, while also participating in the National Dwarf Game since 2010 and at the World Dwarf Games this year.
Taking part in the World Dwarf Games from Aug. 4-12 in Ontario, Canada, Brown played in five events, claiming a bronze medal with the USA women’s soccer team.
“The experience was absolutely amazing,” Brown said. “I miss it. I want to go back. It was so cool to meet all the people from around the world.
“At Nationals, it’s just the U.S. and Canada, so I have my U.S. friends and my Canadian friends. But now I have Australian, Great Britain, Peru and friends from all around the world.”
Besides soccer, Brown played volleyball, basketball and badminton (singles and doubles). She had never played soccer before the World Dwarf Games and was nervous to join the women’s team.
It ended up being her favorite part of the Games.
Four teams competed in soccer — the United States, Great Britain, Australia and a team made up of athletes from around the world.
In the United States’ 3-0 bronze-medal victory over the International team, Brown scored the first two goals and recorded the assist on the third goal.
“It makes me very proud to see her do what she loves in an environment where she can compete,” Brown’s mother, Jeni said. “It’s just wonderful.”
The World Dwarf Games originated in 1993 and were first held in Chicago. They are every four years in different locations around the world, allowing participants to compete against international players.
This year’s Games had 500 athletes competing in 12 sports.
“They are something I look forward to every summer,” Brown said. “I am really passionate about it because I get the opportunity to play against people my size.”
Brown comes from an athletic family. Her parents attended Oxford High School, where her mother won two state championships in basketball and her father wrestled. She also has two sisters — one is two years older and one is five years younger — who have athletic backgrounds.
Brown played multiple sports as a kid before focusing on volleyball and basketball in middle school and high school at Elm Creek before she graduated in 2016.
Brown’s parents encouraged her to play sports, despite her condition.
“We didn’t think anything different when Emme was born with dwarfism,” Jeni Brown said. “We thought we’d treat her just like everyone else. We expected her to compete and do the best she can.
“We just treated her like a normal kid. I think that’s what makes her, her.”
Being short hasn’t come without its challenges — both in sports and throughout life.
“Growing up in Elm Creek, it’s a small town, and everyone knew me, so I didn’t have problems with that,” Emme Brown said. “But going out to like the mall and coming to college, not a lot of people know people with dwarfism.
“The staring caught me by surprise. You have to realize though that not everyone knows about dwarfism so you have to bear with it.”
Brown plans on participating at the World Dwarf Games in the future. The location in 2021 has yet to be determined, but Brown is hoping she can attend.
When Brown isn’t playing sports, she enjoys spending time with friends and watching movies. She’s a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Kearney studying elementary education with the hopes of being a kindergarten teacher after graduation.
Regardless of what she’s doing, her life goal is to educate people on dwarfism and show that little people are normal individuals, regardless of their size.
“Just because we are different, doesn’t mean we have to be treated differently,” she said. “We’re still humans. We just happen to be a little shorter.
“Just to give us a chance because I feel like some people just automatically overlook us and look past us. Just give us a chance.”