The gold medal in tough­ness goes to …

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SCOTT RADLEY

He’s never had an in­jury, he says. In all his years of wrestling at the high­est lev­els against in­cred­i­ble op­po­nents and win­ning pro­vin­cial and na­tional cham­pi­onships, he in­sists he’s es­caped pretty much un­scathed.

So he’s never, for ex­am­ple, had fin­gers get dis­lo­cated in a clinch?

“I get that all the time,” Ahmed Shamiya says. “I don’t even con­sider that an in­jury.”

In­ter­est­ing. Not nor­mal, but in­ter­est­ing. What about con­cus­sions, knee lig­a­ment tears and mus­cle strains, then? Ever have those?

Well, sure, but they’re not re­ally in­juries as much as in­con­ve­niences.

OK, does he suf­fer from bangedup ears, con­stant cuts, ever-present bruises on all parts of his body, black eyes and scratches? Yeah, but … We heard some­thing about a knee, too. One that keeps lock­ing and pop­ping out of place even in the mid­dle of matches. Is that true?

“I just pop it back in,” he says way too ca­su­ally.

Clearly, the 22-year-old McMaster star has a level of tough­ness the rest of hu­man­ity — or at least most of it — doesn’t share. Though it should be pointed out that it hasn’t al­ways been this way.

When he dis­cov­ered wrestling in Grade 9 at Robert Bate­man High School in Burling­ton courtesy of his gym teacher and for­mer Mac wrestler, Demitrios Pa­padopou­los, he im­me­di­ately loved it. The trou­ble was, he wasn’t very good.

“Ac­tu­ally, I was re­ally bad,” he says. “I al­most quit be­cause I was so bad at it.”

If mem­ory serves, he lost nine of his first 10 matches. Wasn’t tough enough, he says. Still, Pa­padopou­los was a for­mi­da­ble evan­ge­list for the sport and con­vinced him he could be­come good if he stuck with it.

Despite no ev­i­dence to sup­port such a the­sis — at least, none Shamiya could see — he’d still ar­rive early to school each morn­ing and work out in the gym to turn pudgy into mus­cle. He im­me­di­ately saw re­sults both phys­i­cally and on the mat.

In short or­der he de­cided his goal was to qual­ify for OFSAA that year.

The pro­vin­cial high school cham­pi­onships.

Which should’ve been an in­sane tar­get for a guy with barely any ex­pe­ri­ence. Ex­cept by the end of the sea­son he missed by just one point.

He was dev­as­tated but was now fully com­mit­ted. That sum­mer he worked out at Mac with his coach, fac­ing men far bet­ter than him. It was a gru­elling boot camp that beat him up. But when he got back to school armed with the tech­niques he’d learned and the tough­ness he’d ab­sorbed, he was ready.

He fin­ished sec­ond in On­tario in Grade 11 and third in Grade 12. Then came to McMaster’s pow­er­house team. In his sec­ond year he fin­ished sec­ond in Canada. The past two years he’s won the Cana­dian univer­sity cham­pi­onship in the 74-kilo­gram class. He’s a favourite to win the OUA ti­tle at home — Mac hosts the provin­cials on Feb. 11 — and make it a triple crown at the na­tion­als this year. Though that’s re­ally just the ap­pe­tizer.

“My main goal is to be a world and Olympic cham­pion,” he says.

He’s not kid­ding. The run­ner-up for McMaster male ath­lete of the year last year wants to be on Canada’s team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Cor­rec­tion, he ex­pects to be on that team.

There’s rea­son to be­lieve it’s not a crazy dream. He fin­ished fifth at the se­nior na­tion­als last year. He knows he can im­prove upon that. Last weekend he won the elite Brock In­vi­ta­tional — the Ma­raud­ers team that’s ranked sec­ond in the coun­try fin­ished sec­ond there — and earned school ath­lete of the week hon­ours.

“If you shoot for the stars, you’ll land on the moon,” he says. “The moon is the Olympics.”

He’s al­ready proved tough­ness won’t be an is­sue.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

Ahmed Shamiya, McMaster wrestler, has his sights set on the some pretty lofty goals, in­clud­ing be­ing an Olympic and world cham­pion.

Ahmed Shamiya

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