Igali's destiny comes into focus with key matchup

March 04, 2004, vol. 29, no. 5
By Marianne Meadahl

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By the time a CBC documentary on the life of Daniel Igali called Wrestling with Destiny airs on March 9 at 7 p.m., the reigning Olympic gold medallist will already know where destiny is taking him next.

His March 6 competition in St. Catharine's, Ontario against the defending Canadian champion, Zoltan Hunzady (to be broadcast on CBC at 12:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.) will decide whether he is on the Canadian men's freestyle wrestling team heading for Athens and the 2004 Olympics this summer. A win would secure that spot.

“Everything else that I am doing in life is on hold while I focus on this match,” says Igali. “I can't look beyond it. I am in a good state physically and mentally but I can take nothing for granted.

“Last time, I went to the Olympics as the world champion,” recalls Igali, who has since moved into a new designated weight category of 74 kilograms from the 69 kilogram class. “This time, it has been a battle just to qualify.”

Unlike his championship status of 2000, Igali finished 11th in the world finals last fall. The top 10 qualify to go on to the Olympics, so Igali had to face qualifying matches, culminating with his contest with Hunzady.

“It meant a lot last time just to go to the Olympics, but this time my only focus would be to win,” says Igali. With one gold medal already on his mantle, another wouldn't be any less meaningful, he insists. “Given the work behind getting there, being this time in the middle of the pack, it might be sweeter.”

Wrestling with Destiny, is produced by Omni Film Productions and will air as a one-hour documentary for CBC's Life and Times program.

Film crews tracked Igali, who is also an SFU graduate student, through his daily life, and accompanied him on travels to his hometown of Eniwari, Nigeria, where he was raised in the traditions of the Ijaw tribe.

In Ijaw culture, wrestling is revered as a sport of near-religious importance.

Igali is also continuing to raise funds to build a school in his village, where he attended school in a tiny one-room shack. To date he has raised $175,000 and is about two-thirds to his goal.

A fundraising dinner is being held on Wednesday, March 17 at the Morris Wosk centre for dialogue, beginning at 6 p.m. The program features authentic African drumming and dancing.

Tickets are $125 per person. For more information call 604-291-5301 or email hedgelow@sfu.ca

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