BY MONICA IHEAKAM
Amas Daniel is one of the athletes Team Nigeria would be banking on for a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics this summer.
Daniel, a wrestler won gold for Nigeria at the Congo 2015 All Africa Games, a feat, which he is still celebrating. But the 26-year-old wrestler said his ultimate ambition is to climb the podium at the world’s biggest sports fiesta, the Olympic Games.
In this chat with Saturday Sunsports, the three-time African champion went down the memory lane, opening up on his wrestling career and how he intends to do Nigeria proud in Rio.
Congratulations Amas, what does the Rio 2016 Olympics qualification mean to you?
It means a lot to me because, as an athlete, if you have never gone to the Olympics, you have not experienced the peak of your career. Olympics stage is the ultimate; the whole world is in tune with the games. Even when you go to the Commonwealths and All Africa Games and get a medal, you are still not fulfilled.
I want to know what it is like and the fact you can call yourself an Olympian. I have now stepped into a new phase of my career in wrestling, which requires more hard work, focus and determination.
You failed to make it to London 2012 games, so what is the magic this time?
The Magic is God Almighty. I have gone through some harrowing experiences in the past that threatened my career. When I am nearing the edge of success where I can beat my chest and say ‘this is it’, something would happen to pull me down the rung. I have been to major championships, but this is another scale so it is a dream come true for me.
What were some of the adversities you faced that threatened your ambitions?
There are several of them, but the most traumatizing one was the armed robbery attack, where the robbers almost butchered me. They gave me a deep machete cut on the head and my shoulder that nearly severed off my entire hand.
I saw myself dying and there was no help around, I managed to run in the middle of the night soaked in blood to the house of Nigeria wrestling Federation President, Dr. Daniel Igali who came to my rescue.
Infact everybody wrote me off after that encounter because nobody believed that I would be able to wrestle again. While on my hospital bed, in pains, I kept asking God would I wrestle again. Is this the end for me? But in all this I give glory to God because, the life changing odds that life threw at me, God used it to strengthen me.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games you lost two teeth and had an operation on your belly, how did you overcome the trauma?
Initially, it wasn’t smooth sail, because, I had the fear of coming in contact with anybody. You know that wrestling is all about body contact, so then, I was afraid of coming close to my opponents, but as time went on and with the help of my coaches and Dr. Igali, I overcame the fear.
So how did you overcome the odds in your new weight class?
It is easy. After God, Dr. Igali is my greatest inspiration. He has won gold in every international competition, including the Olympics. When president is around me, I have a confidence that all will be well.
When I am on the mat about to wrestle an opponent, I see his face and hear his voice, it is a tonic and morale booster for me. Whatever instructions he is giving out at that time, I try as much as possible to act on it because he has the experience and has invested so much in me.
You hold Dr. Igali in such high esteem?
Yes o. God changed my story through him. Even when others, including myself gave up, Dr. Igali never did. He sees the potentials in me and tenaciously held on to it. If not him, I would have been dropped from the Nigerian wrestling team long time ago. In all my travails he, never left me. Whatever achievements I have made in the sport, is all thanks to him.
The success story of each and every wrestler in Nigeria will not be complete without Dr. Igali. He is quietly and consistently moulding all of us to become super stars.
How did you celebrate your Rio 2016 ticket?
It was an emotional moment for me. I wrestled in a new weight class, because I was moved up from the 61kg to 65kg and every body, including me was apprehensive. The question on everybody’s lips was ‘Can he make it?
When I won the gold, I couldn’t believe that it was over. I was still asking is it over?
Yes I rejoiced because it was a dream come true for me, my dad and mum, including everybody that knows me were happy that at last I have made it to the biggest stage, which is the Olympics. However, I am not celebrating yet. The bulk does not just stop at qualifying alone; the target is going to Rio and getting into the medals range.
So what color of medals are you aiming for?
You know that the standard in the Olympic is high, right now, I cannot promise any color. What I rely on now is my training and God. I have entered into a covenant with God concerning the Olympics, which I will not disclose, but I believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Have you intensified your training to achieve your target?
You must set realistic goals and never give up until you reach them. If you are self-confident you can achieve everything.
I train 3 times a day. I get up very early in the morning to jog, this is around 6am. When I am through with jogging, I prepare for my training proper, which lasts several hours and then I return back to the training in the evening. It is a routine I never break except something very important that cannot wait crops up.
What I owe Nigerians, my state and the Nigeria Wrestling Federation is to train, focus, and more training. Success is hard at the start, but it is possible with the right people around to inspire you.