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