2000 Canadian Sport Awards
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Daniel Igali - Wrestling
Nominated by the Canadian Amateur Wrestling AssociationCanada's first world wrestling champion is Daniel Igali of Surrey, B.C., who won the title by defeating his American archrival, three-time NCAA champion Lincoln McIlvray. Tired of losing to McIlvray by a point or two, and particularly galled by a close decision at last year's World Cup final that cost him the bronze medal, Igali had trained intensively. His game plan called for him to stay on the offensive and take advantage of every opening.
Three weeks before the worlds, Igali's preparation seemed in jeopardy when he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee. Arthroscopic surgery was his only option.
Igali, who was born in Nigeria and stayed on in Canada after the 1994 Commonwealth Games, went to the world championship anyway. A medal might no longer be possible, he reasoned, but perhaps he could break into the top eight and qualify for the 2000 Olympic Games.
From start to finish, the tournament went Igali's way. Felling six consecutive opponents, he prepared once again to face McIlvray in a major final. Experienced and focused, and with a wrestling style that has been described as "very exciting Oeopen Oe powerful Oe speedy Oe and with tremendous athleticism," Igali forgot the pain in his knee, wrestled the match of his life, and won the gold medal by a 3-2 decision.
The importance of Igali's victory cannot be underestimated. As his teammate Justin Abdou said at the time, "What he has done for Canadian wrestling can be compared to breaking the four-minute mile."
The 25-year-old Simon Fraser University criminology student expects to meet McIlvray again in September at the 2000 Olympic Games, and he is confident that Olympic gold will be his reward.