Hall inductees get political

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

Sports and politics normally mix about as well as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.

But for three of the eight inductees into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame yesterday, battling for justice, equality and life itself is as much a part of their story as their athletic achievements.

As well as being outstanding athletes, they stand as examples of a shining humanity.

Beckie Scott was the first North American woman to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing, when she placed third at the 2002 Games. The knowledge that she finished behind two skiers who used performance-enhancing drugs started her on a journey as a tireless advocate for drug-free sports.

Then there's Daniel Igali, world and Olympic champion. Those medals were the initial repayment to a country that saved him from oppression, probable imprisonment, maybe death. Now, he's a budding politician and philanthropist.

All Cassie Campbell has done is become the face of women's hockey in Canada, an advocate for women in sports, the first female to work as an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada and yesterday she became an out-spoken critic of government officials who help celebrate the latest induction of the Hall's 489 members but can't find it a home that doesn't consist of cardboard boxes.

More than 700 people attended last night's 52nd annual induction at the swanky Royal York. The honorees also included Sam Jacks, inventor of ringette and floor hockey; Dr. Robert Steadward, for spearheading sport for the disabled; nine-time NHL 50 goal scorer, Mike Bossy; Doug Flutie, the first American ever named to the Hall; former National League MVP, Larry Walker.

They live as paupers among sports' hallowed halls. They are to the hall of fame what guys on street corners with paper cups are to Toronto. "I was completely shocked," said Campbell, of the Hall without a home. "I know there's interest in Calgary and putting it at Canada's Olympic Park. It's important to celebrate our athletes. We're not very good celebrators. We want to win hockey and if we win, we're OK but in other sports we don't celebrate our athletes enough. I think it's a shame it's gotten to this point."

Since retiring, Scott had a baby boy named Keo and has taken some tentative steps into the politics of the Olympics. She is the athletes' representative to the IOC and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency. She admits there may not be an answer to stopping cheaters but, it won't keep her from trying. "It's like stopping crime in that you have to keep fighting it. We may never have a perfect world but we have to keep trying for better. We have to try to protect what is fair and legitimate so we can make (sports) something that young people can aspire to."

Igali said his "shining moment" came in 1999 when, two weeks after knee surgery, he won gold at the world championship. "I won the world championship on one leg. That just blew me away. I wasn't even supposed to compete. I wasn't expecting it at all."

Just five years earlier he had escaped a military junta in his native Nigeria by refusing to return after the Commonwealth Games in Victoria. "It's improved now. There's a new administration and the country's Supreme Court is taking charge but at the time it was quite oppressive," Igali said.

"I don't even want to think about (what life would be like if he'd gone back to Nigeria) because I know what life is like for some of my friends. For me, coming to Canda was the best decision I ever made."

Igali graduated from Simon Fraser in criminology and started the Igali Foundation, which has worked on opening a school in his boyhood village of Eniwari, Nigeria.

In 2005, in Surrey, B.C., he ran for the provincial legislature as a Liberal. "I lost but I'm going to try again," he said. "Politics is the stage from where you can make the most difference. Sports needs more funding ... I know from personal experience how important sports can be and that it can change your life."

Or, in his case, save it.


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