Daniel Igali was born in Eniwari in the country of Nigeria, where he grew up wrestling. Daniel first came to Canada as the Captain of his then National team. While in the Country, Daniel chose not to leave and instead claimed refugee status, and eventually became a Canadian citizen. He continued to wrestle for Simon Fraser University and went on an incredible streak, sinning 116 consecutive matches. Igali represented Canada at the Summer Olympic Games in 2000 in Sydney Australia, where he captured a Gold Medal in Freestyle Wrestling, in the Lightweight division. Daniel continues to train at Simon Fraser and coach’s the Nigerian National Wrestling Team.
What made you get involved in wrestling?
I can’t quite tell how I got involved in wrestling. My tribe, the Ijaw tribe in Nigeria take wrestling as their favorite pastime. As a result, you grow up wrestling because everyone does. I got into wrestling because that’s practically the only sport that was available for me to be involved in.
What adversity have you had to overcome as athlete?
When I moved to Canada in 1994 and was going through the immigration hurdles, I had to do a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet. The most inconveniencing was security jobs. I used to train at 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday. I was doing security from 11pm-7am. Morning practices and mid morning classes were very tough for me. In addition to that, there were quite a number of major injuries, including a neck reconstruction that I had to undergo as an athlete. It took a lot of determination to compete in man’s oldest sport with the attendant injuries.
How often did you train during your wrestling career?
I used to have four mat sessions per week: Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Friday. I also had two strength and conditioning sessions and three cardio sessions per week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Strength training was on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It was a grueling schedule.
What are some key pieces of advice would you give athletes wanting to avoid injury?
Stretch very well before and after training. Re-hydrate properly and endeavor to have the minimum eight hours of rest every day if possible.
What is your #1 fitness tip?
Go at your own pace
Lorne’s Take – Daniel is one f Canada’s most celebrated Olympians. I echo his sentiments on the importance of rest and hydration.