Busy mix­ture of work and sport


Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By OLIVIA SHIVAS

In 1999 Dan Buck­ing­ham was 18 and hav­ing the year of his life, liv­ing in halls at the Uni­ver­sity of Otago.

Life changed for­ever af­ter an ac­ci­dent dur­ing a ca­sual game of rugby with some mates.

‘‘The weight of the op­pos­ing pack pushed through . . . the weight of eight guys, some­thing had to give and it was my neck.’’

He woke up as a C-6/7 para­plegic in in­ten­sive care at Dunedin Hospi­tal.

He cel­e­brated his birth­day in hospi­tal with a keg with friends, then spent three months re­cov­er­ing at a spinal unit in Christchurch.

Al­though life was go­ing to be dif­fer­ent, rugby stayed the same.

‘‘I ini­tially wanted to get back into uni, but life was hard and wheel­chair rugby was my sav­ing grace,’’ the 33-year-old says.

He con­tin­ued study­ing in Dunedin, but spent a lot of time trav­el­ling to Christchurch to play wheel­chair rugby.

‘‘Be­ing with guys who had been through what I went through meant I didn’t need to rein­vent the world. I wanted to do what they were do­ing,’’ he says.

The Pt Che­va­lier res­i­dent has been play­ing for the New Zealand Wheel Blacks wheel­chair rugby team for 14 years and says it takes a lot of com­mit­ment.

An ob­vi­ous high­light was win­ning gold at the Athens 2004 Par­a­lympic Games.

‘‘Lead­ing up to the games was 18 months of hard work. Peo­ple might have for­got­ten . . . but we still carry the knowl­edge what we did was phe­nom­e­nal . . . much greater than the gold medal,’’ he says.

Buck­ing­ham went on to study sport sci­ence and jour­nal­ism. When At­ti­tude Pic­tures filmed a doc­u­men­tary about the Wheel Blacks, he asked for a job.

He started at the bot­tom and has worked in nearly ev­ery cor­ner of the pro­duc­tion com­pany, from re­search­ing to re­port­ing to post­pro­duc­tion and is now At­ti­tudeLive.com’s on­line pro­ducer.

The At­ti­tude Awards came about as a way to cel­e­brate the achieve­ments of New Zealan­ders liv­ing with a dis­abil­ity.

A black-tie gala event is held ev­ery year on De­cem­ber 3, which is the In­ter­na­tional Day of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties.

‘‘Opin­ion lead­ers have the abil­ity to change mind­sets and re­ally make a dif­fer­ence,’’ Buck­ing­ham says.

‘‘It’s about al­ways go­ing back to the ethos that [peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties] want to do more, we can do more, help us do more.’’

Af­ter a few hec­tic years, he went back­pack­ing around Europe by him­self. It was a time to re­flect and cen­tre his life again.

‘‘You ap­pre­ci­ate the chal­lenge and be­ing able to work it out. I’ve done it sev­eral times and it’s learn­ing that there’s al­ways a way around ob­sta­cles,’’ he says.

His life is a con­stant bal­anc­ing act be­tween work and sport, so what keeps him go­ing?

‘‘I want to do it for my­self and trav­el­ling as a re­porter is awe­some. But when I see other peo­ple do­ing what they do, I want to be able to achieve the same things.

‘‘And for my team-mates, guys who put in so much ded­i­ca­tion and help them the same way I was helped,’’ he says.

‘‘When there’s some­thing in the world that’s big­ger than your­self and you do it, there’s great sat­is­fac­tion.’’

Dou­ble life: Dan Buck­ing­ham is on the na­tional wheel­chair rugby team and also works as as a pro­ducer at At­ti­tude Pic­tures.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bournews. co.nz and click lat­est edi­tion to watch the Wheel Blacks.

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