Paralympics 2016: Meet the ‘little’ Bolton boy preparing to dish out wheelchair rugby punishment in Rio

From the little guy smashing into people in wheelchair basketball, to the little guy smashing into people in wheelchair rugby, Ayaz Bhuta has enjoyed the transition into his new sport.

Bhuta will go to his debut Paralympic Games, in Rio, in September, after the Bolton athlete only began playing rugby in 2009.

The 27-year-old has relished the change from wheelchair basketball and now the man nicknamed the Jonah Lomu of wheelchair rugby, feels he has found his niche.

“I used to weigh eight stone back then and I was the little guy hitting the big guys twice the size of me and twice the weight of me,” he said.

“Basketball is a non-contact sport, so they were squaring up to me when I was smashing into their chairs – they were like ‘what you doing?’.

“I got scouted by wheelchair rugby and went down to one of their camps. It just instantly drew me.

“The aggression drew me first, but then as I got in love with the game the tactical nature of the game drew me more and more.

“When I went to wheelchair rugby I was the little guy being hit, so there was a transition. I’ve had to develop my game to be annoying and agile.”

Bhuta, who has Roberts Syndrome, is being sent to Rio by the British Paralympic Association, which is a registered charity that is responsible for funding, selecting, and managing the Paralympics GB team.

Rio 2016 is expected to be the most competitive Paralympic Games ever and Bhuta said the news of his selection took some time to sink in.

“It was quite an underwhelming reaction from myself,” he added.

“We went into a room with the coaches and performance director and they said congratulations, you’ve been selected.  And I went ‘oh’. He asked, ‘is that all you’ve got to say?’. I was like ‘Yeah’.

“It was a bit underwhelming, he asked ‘have you got anything more to say?’ And I was like ‘no not really’.

“Then I got into my car, stuck on the M6, and then I’m thinking. As I’m thinking more and more that’s when it really kicked in. I’m going to Rio. I got really excited that I probably tooted my horn.”

Paralympics GB finished third in their pool at London 2012, winning once and losing two matches, but Bhuta said the side expect more from themselves in Rio.

“I’ve heard people saying this is the best squad we’ve had,” said Bhuta.

“I don’t know if that’s true but that’s quite a good compliment for the younger boys coming through. This year’s been a streak of impressive results.

“We had a test event and we won gold. I think we surprised a few people. We are expecting a much tougher challenge in Rio.

“We’ve come close to beating the top teams, we’ve won a few times, we’ve lost a few times. We’re not getting battered like we used to. We compete with the best and the top flight in the world.”

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Image courtesy of ummahsonic via YouTube, with thanks.

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