Nikita Howarth has traded one black line for another in the next step of a remarkable sporting career.
Howarth, who became New Zealand’s youngest Paralympian at the age of 13 when she represented her country at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, won swimming gold and bronze at Rio 2016.
After a five month break, she found her passion for swimming had ebbed, deciding to pursue an interest in Para cycling that had first been stoked during a school visit by world, Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Sarah Ulmer when Howarth was just eight years old.
Howarth was born with a congenital bilateral arm deficiency, with no right hand and her left arm ending below the elbow.
Despite hopping back in the pool after a five month break, chasing the black line on the bottom had lost its appeal after the highs of the 2016 Paralympics.
“I did a development cycling camp a few months after Rio and I loved it and I was like, ‘you know what, I’m going to switch’. I didn’t think there was going to be a little black line in cycling, but there is that one that goes around the bottom that you follow.”
Howarth has been selected in a nine-strong New Zealand team for the UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships, which will take her back to Rio from 22-25 March, with the velodrome alongside the pool where she starred in 2016.
She competed in the Under 19 Track National Championships this week, picking up bronze medals in the women’s 500m time trial and 3,000m individual pursuit.
“I didn’t expect to get this far. To get to the Worlds 18 months after I finished swimming is pretty extreme for me. I just want to prove that I’m a good Para athlete, doing two Para sports is an achievement in itself I think, and a medal or two wouldn’t hurt, but that’s long term stuff,” she said.
Full story is available on Paralympics New Zealand’s website.