Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada

Home | Cultural and Racial Diversity | Newcomers to Canada

Daniel Igali


Sport as a vehicle for a humanitarian vision: The Story of Daniel Igali

Daneil Igali was born in an area at the southern tip of Nigeria known as the Niger delta region. By Canadian norms 20 children is an astounding number, but this was the number of siblings Daniel grew up with. His large family was raised in humble beginnings. There was no electricity, no running water, and nothing was taken for granted amidst the political violence and instability in his homeland.

Daniel excelled in the sport of wrestling from a young age. His early life was full of struggle, but he turned his involvement in sport into a positive. He knew that he had to work for success and to overcome anyone or anything that stood in his way. As a young man Daniel had climbed to the national peak of wrestling as the captain of the Nigerian team.

In 1994 he came to Victoria, B.C. to wrestle at the Commonwealth Games for Nigeria, but instead of returning home he stayed in Canada as a refugee. He settled in his new home, eventually gaining citizenship in 1998. Daniel went on to represent Canada at the Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games, and Olympic Games. His career highlight was winning an Olympic Gold in 2000. Standing upon podium, with O Canada broadcast over the arena sound system, the emotions of his monumental journey for his adopted country brought him to tears.

When asked about his greatest accomplishment, he is quick to point to his social victories despite his incredible achievements on the wrestling mat. Daniel was eager to give back, to both of his homelands, and has done inspiring humanitarian work to provide opportunities for youth, in particular by providing opportunities for education. Igali's drive and values have brought him full circle, as he used sport as a vehicle to launch himself into a position to provide social opportunities, most notably, for the youth of Nigeria.

photograph of Daniel Igali wrestling with opponent
Baraladei Daniel Igali grew up in a poor family in rural Nigeria. Wrestling is part of the Nigerian culture and he learned to wrestle as a small boy. He was inspired by a visit to his village by famed Olympic wrestler Appah Macauley and deciding then that he wanted to go to the Olympics: "You should keep pushing the envelope because its only then that you can know how far you can go. Push as hard as you can, otherwise you won't know what limits you have."
Collection: CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz

photograph of Daniel Igali with gold medal and flowers
Daniel Igali came to Canada to compete for Nigeria at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria. He made a difficult decision to stay and apply for refugee status due to the political unrest in his country. He attended Simon Fraser University where his coaches saw his ability and worked with him to achieve confidence and belief in himself. When he won his Olympic Gold medal Daniel vindicated his decision to leave his family, to work hard in a new home and to achieve his childhood dream.
Collection: CP PHOTO/COC

photograph of Daniel Igali holding Canadian flag over his head
When Daniel won the gold medal in men's 64kg freestyle wrestling he spontaneously laid the Canadian flag on the mat and ran around it. "I was just so overwhelmed with pride. I was just so thankful to this country that had given me so much, everything that I had wanted in life - education, sports, and opportunity to compete. I was convinced I was running around Canada and celebrating with Canada."
Collection: CP PHOTO/COC

photograph of Daniel Igali with gold medal
Daniel Igali has used his Olympic status to help people. He is involved in building schools in Nigeria and helping children who live in the poorer areas obtain an education. For Daniel his education was the key to a better life and his integrity and leadership is empowering the next generation.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Olympic relay torch Sydney 2000
The design of the Olympic relay torch for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney reflected three areas of Australian culture: the boomerang, the Sydney Opera House and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The torch was carried throughout Australia, nearby island nations and was even carried underwater. These Games were important to Daniel since they meant he had achieved his childhood goal.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Previous Next