Despite Dwarfism, One Triathlete Stands Tall

“Mighty John” Young defies odds by competing in triathlon.

For the first time, John Young was told he was too tall.

Young is a dwarf, born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism.

The 45-year-old math teacher was in New York City earlier this month, ready to compete in a USA Paratriathlon-qualifying competition, when he was rejected.

“’I’m sorry, John, but you’re too tall to race in that division,’” a race official told Young, who is 4-feet-4-inches. He missed the cutoff for the category by an inch.

“For the first time, I was actually too tall to race,” Young said, with a chuckle.

That didn’t deter the Salem, Mass. resident. He competed in the Open division. Nothing has slowed him down, really, in the last three years when it comes to competing in triathlons. Through it all, he says he’s never run into another dwarf triathlete.

Tabbed as “Mighty John,” or “MJ,” by Salem competitive racing teammate Patrick Smith (“he’s the nickname guy, and it’s pretty cool,” he said), Young has competed in 15 triathlons to date, finishing 13. He was invited to a national competition next month in Iowa based on his performance in New York City.

He has defied clinical wisdom: dwarfs should not be running regularly because of spinal complications, Young said. He has also defied his lazy inner self — five years ago, he weighed 193 pounds and could sense he was on the road to medical problems.

Young said he is spurred by a motto in his chiropractor’s office, which reads “If you don’t have time for exercise, you are going to have to make time for illness.”

Read more: Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle