Igali's message of hope

TIM BAINES -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:54 PM ET

Daniel Igali is an inspiration. An example of how hard work can pay big dividends. Even if you're a stranger in a strange land.

And Igali is in Ottawa this weekend to pass on a message: Give back to the community.

Coming from mere mortals, this message might get lost.

But Igali is different. Very different.

Born in Baraladei, Nigeria, Igali lived in an impoverished community, alongside 20 brothers and sisters. After competing in wrestling at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C., he decided to stay in Canada.

At the Sydney 2000 Olympics, he won a gold medal -- for Canada.

And, thankfully for the Canadians he's inspired, the 31-year-old's been busy ever since.

"Hopefully in my time here, one or two kids will grab onto my message," said Igali. "As long as we're able to help each other, the world is a better place.

"We can't change the world, but we can change little things."

And he's recently thrown his hat into the political world, running for the B.C. Liberals in the May 17 election, hoping to represent Surrey-Newton.

"People have told me I could be the first person of African descent to be in the B.C. legislature," said Igali, twice Canada's outstanding male amateur athlete. "But that is so myopic. I'd be much more proud if a kid told me: 'Daniel, I was in school and thought about quitting. I saw you ... the way you rose up ... and I decided to stay in school.' Maybe he becomes a doctor.

"That would be enough ... if I was able to touch one kid."

Igali will be at the Sandy Hill Community Centre, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. today. Later today, he'll speak and sign autographs at the old Ottawa Tech High School, at 440 Albert St., from 7-10 p.m. Officially, he's here as part of Black History Month. But truth be known, the message is universal.

After spinal fusion surgery in 2003, Igali defied the odds and once again competed in the Olympics, placing sixth. But then again, beating the odds is nothing new to Igali.

Tirelessly working with charities, Igali's become a great role model with a great message, to be sure.

tim.baines@ott.sunpub.com


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