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Daniel Igali

SFU criminology graduate student Daniel Igali

Olympic-bound Igali coaching Nigerian wrestlers

July 24, 2008

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By Marianne Meadahl

Daniel Igali is again heading to the Olympics – not as a competitor this time, but as a technical director and mentor to a pair of young wrestling hopefuls from Nigeria.

And in some ways, the SFU criminology graduate student is more nervous coaching the young Nigerian team members than he was in 2000 when he competed for Canada and won gold in men’s freestyle wrestling (69 kg).

“I feel so much for these young wrestlers, what they are going through and the dreams they have,” says Igali, who is currently in Nigeria with the wrestlers. They will spend two weeks in Korea training before heading to the games in Beijing, Aug. 8-24.

Twenty-nine-year-old Wilson Seiwari (120 kg) is a two-time African champion in freestyle wrestling who comes from the Niger Delta region close to where Igali grew up. Young female wrestler Amarachi Obiajuwan (72 kg), who is only 19, found success early and already has two African championships under her belt. She is from the eastern part of the Niger Delta. Igali places both somewhere “in the middle of the pack” with strong potential to shine in competition.

“They are working really hard and have done well in Africa – they are doing everything right and we’re taking it one step at a time.”

Igali and the wrestlers, who were initially denied entry visas to the country last May, recently spent a week at the University of Guelph training and competing.

The two wrestlers and four other Nigerian teammates who were denied visas had planned to compete in May in an Olympic qualifying event in Edmonton and train at SFU. There, Igali had hoped they could gain insight from veteran coach Dave McKay.

“It would have been great experience for them,” says Igali, whose protest to the government eventually won the visas and enabled the stint at Guelph.

Igali has spent the past two years fine-tuning operations of the school he established in his home village of Eniwari – a project that has kept him returning to Nigeria often.

That has meant ample opportunity to promote his sport and work with local wrestlers.

“Working with these young Olympic hopefuls has been a wonderful opportunity,” says Igali, who will continue to promote the sport in Canada and internationally.

He is one of the featured Olympians in Canadian Olympic School program introduced this past spring (see www.olympicschool.ca).

Igali plans to keep an Olympic diary as he did at both the 2000 and 2004 games. The diary will be posted in August on his website, www.igali.com.
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