Paralympic swimmer wants to blaze own trail

Last updated 08:32 29/08/2012
Nikita Howarth
JEREMY SMITH/Fairfax NZ
NEXT BIG THING: Comparisons have been drawn between Paralympics newcomer Nikita Howarth and multiple swimming medal-winner Sophie Pascoe.

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It would be an easy bow to draw to suggest Paralympic swimmer Nikita Howarth could be the next Sophie Pascoe, but the 13-year-old from Cambridge hopes people will look at her as the first Nikita Howarth after the London Paralympic Games.

At 13, Howarth is understandably shy, but when she slips into the pool her demeanour changes. She's focused, determined and ready for everything that's coming her way.

"She's just a neat country kid, and just wants to get out there and show everyone who she is,'' said New Zealand Paralympic swim coach Simon Mayne.

''I think she's going to show everyone what she's made of and that will just be the start, you know once you get a taste for it, maybe Rio [the next Paralympics] she'll want to go out and get a few more.''

Mayne remembers taking Pascoe to her first world championship event in Durban back in 2006, when she won bronze, and he can already see the similarities.

"That was the start, where she got the hunger for it and I can see Nikita doing the same, we're really hoping we can get her a medal and spring board from there and next time go for a few more events."

Howarth, who was born with bilateral upper limb deficiency, meaning she has no hands, is the youngest competitor to ever compete for New Zealand at a Paralympic Games. And the risks that come with that are no secret to the management team.

"We just try and make it as normal as possible, don't go out there and expect it to be quiet, it's going to be noisy, just get out there and do your thing, try and get into the zone and do the things you've been working at,'' Mayne said.

''The water's the water, the lane ropes are the same, there's just going to be a few more people and she's just got to go out there and do her best."

As cliche as it is, keeping it simple is the recipe Mayne and the team swear by.

''If we try and make it too complicated and start worrying about things then you don't do your best. I just want her to be as relaxed as possible, get out there in her first race and hopefully have a good start."

Howarth has also been handed a favourable draw to the start to her competition, starting with the 50m butterfly on Saturday (NZT), before the 100m breaststroke and finally her favoured 200m individual medley on Monday.

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