August 7, 2004
Igali a true hero
Daniel helped the Hitman when he needed it most
By BRET HART - Calgary Sun

A friend in need is a friend indeed. A little over two years ago, I found myself dealing with the toughest battle of my life. To be honest, when I look back on it all now, it seems like a bad dream.

In the days just after I suffered my stroke, I was still in shock as I came to terms with the challenges ahead of me.

I remember the doctors and nurses doing all they could to support me as they prepared me for my first day of physiotherapy.

It broke my heart when I was finally able to listen to my phone messages later, especially when I heard the gentle voice of my good friend Daniel Igali.

He happened to be in town during the G8 summit and was kind enough to invite me out for dinner with the head of the United Nations, Kofi Anon, along with other African leaders.

Igali and I became friends when he passed through Calgary shortly after he won wrestling gold in the 69-kg division at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

We had both dealt with recent tragedies within our families and I had the highest regard for Igali when he represented Canada and I was proud of him when he dropped to his knees and kissed the Canadian flag after winning.

Still suffering from partial paralysis after my stroke, I was unable to take Igali up on his invitation. I sure wished I could have, though.

Deep in despair, I was about to be wheeled down to the bowels of the Foothills Hospital when in walked Igali, along with his coach Dave McKay.

I sometimes wonder how I made it through that time in my life, let alone that day. But I'll never forget that it was Igali who pushed my wheelchair out of my hospital room and down the hall for what would be the first day of the rest of my life.

Those first small steps were such a big part of my long road to recovery.

It's not my intention to write about that dark time. Quite the opposite. I'm happy to say I've been blessed with a miraculous recovery, in no small part because of the encouragement and support of my true hero of wrestling, Daniel Igali.

Igali is representing Canada again at the Olympics this year and faces a daunting challenge as he's moved up a weight class to the 74-kg division. This, after suffering a neck injury which he had operated on last year.

There's talk Igali is not the favorite to win but anybody who knows him knows that he has the heart of a lion. He has a way of realizing his dreams, not just for himself but for all of us who dream with him.

I don't want to sound biased but I have no doubt that winning a gold medal in Olympic wrestling is absolutely the hardest medal of them all to win.

It takes incredible dedication, speed, strength and conditioning to successfully meld mind and body equally while going full blast. I hope Canadians will tune in and watch this first-rate world-class athlete do us proud.

Igali is a true Canadian hero.

Nobody appreciates that more than me.


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