Cap­tain has eyes on gold

Central Leader - - Sport - By Scott Morgan

When Wheel­blacks cap­tain Daniel Buck­ing­ham leads his side into bat­tle at the Par­a­lympics in Bei­jing, he will have one thing on his mind.

The Grey Lynn res­i­dent, who picked up a wheel­chair rugby gold medal at the 2004 Par­a­lympics, is de­ter­mined his side will take it to the world cham­pion Amer­i­cans.

That comes af­ter the United States beat the Wheel­blacks in the fi­nal of the world champs in Christchurch two years ago.

“There’s def­i­nitely a feel­ing we want to go out and do what we should have done in 2006.”

The 27-year-old – paral­ysed from the waist down – dis­cov­ered the sport in 1999 while in Christchurch Hospi­tal’s Bur­wood spinal unit af­ter he broke his neck play­ing rugby.

While Buck­ing­ham didn’t take up the sport straight away be­cause he wanted to fin­ish his univer­sity stud­ies, he says a love for the game soon took hold.

He says friend­ships among the play­ers are just as im­por­tant as the matches them­selves.

“The best thing about play­ing wheel­chair rugby is be­ing part of the Wheel­blacks.

“It’s a team of best friends. We re­ally have to put in the hard yards, com­ing through with that com­mon goal.”

The sport is well known for its rough na­ture, with play­ers reg­u­larly get­ting knocked over and need­ing help to get up.

But Buck­ing­ham, who is one of the team’s top goalscor­ers, says that’s not where most of the in­juries oc­cur.

“The shoul­ders are the big killer. They do the work of your legs.”

Wheel­blacks coach Grant Shar­man says Buck­ing­ham is vi­tal to the team’s chance of suc­cess in Bei­jing.

“He’s hon­est, en­thu­si­as­tic and leads by ex­am­ple. He trains hard and does ev­ery­thing that a Wheel­black should do.”

As for his team’s chances of com­ing away with gold, Shar­man is con­fi­dent the Ki­wis will be up there with the best.

But he says luck al­ways plays a part in th­ese things.

“At the world champs we had no luck in that fi­nal game at all.

“Some­times in the big games you need the bounce of the ball to go your way.”

The squad warms up with tour­na­ments in the United States and Canada late this month.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Man on a mis­sion: Wheel­blacks cap­tain Daniel Buck­ing­ham is keen to re­peat the gold medal suc­cess his side achieved at the 2004 Par­a­lympics.

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