SEARCH 2000 Games

Sunday, October 1, 2000

Golden finish

Canada scores more medals

  SYDNEY -- On one side of Sydney, Caroline Brunet frowned at silver. At almost the same moment, in another side of town, Daniel Igali carefully placed the Canadian flag on a wrestling mat, did a dance around it, and kissed it.

 It may have been the best Canadian moment of the Games.

 And on the final afternoon of the Summer Olympics, a Canadian team so fraught with Olympic disappointment had a reason to celebrate, even if the athletes look upon their medals differently.

 There was gold and there was silver and there was finally celebration.

 For Igali, who left Nigeria to make Vancouver his home, his wrestling victory was the first ever by a Canadian at the Olympics: He won his gold medal match 7-4 over Arsen Gilinov of Russia and reacted the way few Canadians here have reacted.

 He did a somersault. He did a dance. He draped the flag around him, wearing it like a cape, showing an emotion that has rarely been seen here by athletes of any country.

 For Brunet, the day had to be so difficult. After waiting four years after finishing second in Atlanta, and after waiting 17 days and after a five-hour and 10 minute delay because of high winds, Brunet never seemed confortable in her 500 metre K1 kayaking race. The long wait seemed to affect her.

 She started out in second place, stayed in second most of the race and finished one second behind Josefa Idem Guerrini of Italy.

 This wasn't what Brunet, who carried the Canadian flag in the opening ceremonies, was expecting of herself. This wasn't, what Canadians were expected of her. "Anything less than gold will disappoint me,'' she said before the games. Her goal was two gold medals.

 Daniel Igali wanted half that many. When he won the world wrestling championships in 1999, Igali shocked the world by moving into a position few Canadians have ever known. The 26-year-old, whose story of fleeing Nigeria and the love he has shown for Canada has been one of the inspirational sports stories of the year, wouldn't succumb to outside pressures.

 "The pressure I put on myself is more than you can put on me,'' said Igali, sounding un-Canadian.

 Igali has come through the difficult wrestling event at 69 kilos winning his semi-final match earlier in the day needing an extra round to win, and then coming through well in the gold medal match against the Russian. He led early, 3-0 in the first minute, and the bout was tied 4-4 at the end of the first round.

 Igali scored some quick points in the second three-minute round, killing time in the end for a 7-4 win. When the clock rang an end to the match, Canadian coach Dave McKay, ran onto the mat, lifted Igali, who jumped from his hands and did a somersault, the first of a lengthy celebration dance.

 There was no celebration for Brunet, who was on a gold-or- nothing mission. She has owned this event at the world championships and was Canada's athlete of the year because of that domination. Her choice as flagbearer was based primarily on the fact she was expected to win gold.

 Brunet had one final race in the K2 500 metres, along with Karen Furneaux of Nova Scotia, in whichthey were beaten badly. But that wasn't what she was concentrating on. She wanted gold.