By Erin Johnson
Standing just over three feet tall, 23-year-old BYU student Melodie Winn had to wait until Feb. 7 at night for her Olympic Torch Relay warm-up suit to be tailored to accommodate her small stature.
Winn, born a dwarf, ran with the flame in Kearns, Salt Lake County on Feb. 8 in the final stretch of the torch relay. Winn accredits her opportunity to run with the torch to her dwarfism, which she said has presented her with various opportunities as well as obstacles.
Winn”s height has given her a unique perspective on life, but those who know her best say it is Winn”s happy-go-lucky attitude that makes her stand out.
Anyone who knows Winn is familiar with the brilliant smile that graces her face and her infectiously easy laugh.
“Some things are a challenge for her, but she has the tenacity to over come life”s challenges,” Melodie”s father, Dave Winn said. “When life gets a little bit tough she just laughs at it.”
Of course, Winn said, life is hard on a campus and in a world where everything is made for students who often tower over her. However, Winn insists that she is just like everyone else “only compact,” she said she has had to adapt to fit in at BYU.
“I don”t see this as a handicap. Of course I”m not gonna go out and do the high jump,” Winn said. “Some things are a little bit challenging, but not impossible.”
To adjust to a world of what she calls “normal people,” Winn carries a water bottle on campus because she cannot reach water fountains, has to announce her presence in offices where the counter blocks her from the receptionist and has to frequently move around in her chair to prevent her legs from falling asleep as they dangle over the edge of the seat.
“If there”s something I can”t do, then I just say, ”Oh well,” because there are lots of things I can do. I guess it”s just a toss-up and I concentrate on those things I can change,” she said.
In spite of this give-and-take that has defined her life, Winn has made it a priority to participate in most of the activities that other students do. Winn even drives to school in her modified Saturn that accommodates her with hand-operated pedals, a knob on the steering wheel for sharp turns and a booster seat.
Winn said most of the time she does not even think about being a dwarf unless people stare at her while walking around campus or going to the store.
“I get a lot of stares, especially from little children,” Winn said. “The mom is always like, ”Don”t stare, don”t stare,” but I just figure they must have a lot of questions.”