Paralympics 2020: Wheel Blacks overcome obstacles to hunt gold

The Wheelblacks are hoping to "shock the world" when they line up at next year's rescheduled Paralympics in Tokyo.

They're set to be involved for the first time since 2008 and the volunteer driven sport has had to overcome many obstacles to return to the pinnacle event.

They train just as hard as they play and the goal for Wheelbacks co-captain Cody Evenson  is just as clear cut.

"Definitely go there and win," Evenson says. 

The team have only recently returned to training but the COVID-19 threat poses a greater danger to this group than most.

"For us in chairs, it could affect our whole immune system, so there was definitely a worry behind that, and it was sort of lock yourself at home," Evenson says  

Just competing at the Paralympics has been a battle for the team in recent times.

The Wheel Blacks failed to quality for London 2012 and Rio four years ago.

And dual para-athlete Cameron Leslie believes the lack of funding, might be why.

"In my world, I come from a well funded para-swimming program to a volunteer driven sport in wheel-chair rugby and expectations are totally different.

"In the para-swimming world, we've got five top athletes, four of them don't work and only one works full time, while in this group - everyone works full time," Leslie says.  

The cost of travel is the biggest issue, but they also have to factor in a team mechanic, carers and space for all their equipment. 

And they face sides like England and Australia who pour money into the sport. 

"If we had more money to be able to meet up more, have facilities, have the right people around us, it would be amazing," Evenson says.

"At lot of cost you can't get funding for when you are overseas," Wheel Blacks coach Greg Mitchell says. "Five thousand dollars a person per tournament sometimes, and when you're taking 16 or 17 people it adds up fast."

But obstacles are nothing new for these athletes. 

"Challenges is something myself and this whole team have to deal with on a day to day bases," Evenson says.

And although they're going in as the underdogs, the Wheel Blacks have a determination to ensure nothing stands in their way.  

"I've got a good feeling, I really do," he says.  "I feel like who knows we could shock the world.

All have gone down the road of recovery, but now on the road to Tokyo.

Watch the full story above.