Wheel Blacks qualify for 2020 Paralympic Games

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Aotearoa’s’ wheelchair rugby team have brought home the bronze medal at the IWRF Asia-Oceania Wheelchair Rugby Championship in Korea.

With this accomplishment, they have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic games - the first time since Beijing in 2008. 

The team spoke exclusively to Te Ao, upon their arrival at Auckland International Airport this morning.

“It's an awesome feeling, we missed out in 2016 so it’s been quite cool to go back and qualify for the Paralympics,” says Cody Everson, Co-captain for the squad. 

“Physical” is word frequently used to describe the sport.  Wheelchair Rugby Players “tackle” each other by ramming their specially modified wheel chairs into the opposite team members.

“You get smashed out of your chair, you score a lot of points, it’s just so physical, and that’s one thing I didn’t know when I first started playing,” says Everson.

Assistant coach, Gregg Mitchell, says there is definitely an expectation to perform well, considering the success of the All Blacks and the international view of New Zealand, regarding the sport of rugby. 

“The All Blacks are a special team. You can’t really compare to them in any way, shape, or form, just the mana they bring, and we can carry on with a bit of that and take some of that with us.”

The Wheel Blacks will be the only team to represent New Zealand in Tokyo next year, with all other competitors, being individual athletes.