Rio Paralympics 2016: Jesse Reynolds and Nikita Howarth dream of swimming for gold video

DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ

NZ Paralympians talk about their hopes and dreams for the up coming Paralympics in Rio.

Jesse Reynolds just wants to hear God Defend New Zealand in Rio.

It would be an emotional moment for the 19-year-old para-swimmer from Hamilton, because it's a vision he's been dreaming about for some time.

So once Reynolds removes the water from ears in Rio, he has already imagined New Zealand's national anthem echoing around Rio's Aquatic Stadium, with him standing with a gold medal around his neck.

New Zealand's para-swimming team for Rio (Jesse Reynolds far left, Nikita Howarth second from far right)
Hannah Peters

New Zealand's para-swimming team for Rio (Jesse Reynolds far left, Nikita Howarth second from far right)

"I've dreamed about the day I stand up on the podium for a long time. It would be very emotional for me, especially if I can get through to gold and have the national anthem playing. I'm sure there'll be tears rolling down my face."

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Reynolds finished fifth in the Men's 400m freestyle in last year's world championships.
Hannah Peters

Reynolds finished fifth in the Men's 400m freestyle in last year's world championships.

But just to stand on the podium at the Paralympics, which start on September 8 (NZ time), would be an amazing achievement for Reynolds.

It's not something out of his stroke either.

Reynolds, who's now based in Auckland, was ranked in the world's top 10 for the men's 400m freestyle and 100m backstroke as of August 1, and he's achieved fourth and fifth placed finishes in international events in 2014 and 2015.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff.co.nz

Paralympics New Zealand announces the swimmers who will compete in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

"I've always looked at the Paralympic games as being an amazing achievement for anyone," said Reynolds, who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Paralympics in London in 2012.

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"Our classification is very competitive and there's only been a second between first and last place in finals before.

"I'm going to be giving everything I have and I'll be aiming for a medal, for sure."

New Zealand's para-swimmers were unveiled in Auckland in May.
Hannah Peters

New Zealand's para-swimmers were unveiled in Auckland in May.

Reynolds competes in his best event, the 400m freestyle, as well as the 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle.

He was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, which is an absence of the shin bone, and he's had his right foot amputated. 

"It doesn't affect me anymore," said Reynolds. "I've got a prosthetic leg which is great. I don't really see it impacting me anymore."

WORLD CHAMPION, WORLD RECORD HOLDER

Howarth was inspired by 2004 Olympic champion, Sarah Ulmer.
HAGEN HOPKINS

Howarth was inspired by 2004 Olympic champion, Sarah Ulmer.

17-year-old Nikita Howarth is one of New Zealand's golden prospects for Rio.

She's the world No 1 in the women's 50m butterfly S7 and women's 200m individual medley SM7, after winning gold medals at last year's world championships.

In June, the Cambridge para-swimmer set the world record time in the women's 100m butterfly S7.

MARK TAYLOR \ FAIRFAX NZ

Cambridge teenager Nikita Howarth has her sights set on starring in the pool at next year's Rio Paralympics. Howarth, who represented New Zealand at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

So, after becoming New Zealand's youngest ever Paralympian at 13 in London four years ago, Howarth has become one of the world's best in her classification.

Her inspiration for success may be down to a school visit from Olympic champion Sarah Ulmer, who won a track cycling gold medal in the individual pursuit in Athens in 2004.

"I got into swimming when I was really young. Sarah Ulmer came to my school with a gold medal, which was pretty cool. It was awesome and I thought 'I want to be like her'," said Howarth, who was born with bilateral double upper limb deficiency, which means she has no hands.

"I wanted to be a cyclist but I was leading into swimming anyway. I started it and I liked it and continued on from there," she said.

"I enjoy it most of the time. Not training, though, but I've won gold three years in a row."

Howarth's strongest event is the 200m Individual Medley SM7, which has brought her gold medals in the last two world championships, in 2015 and 2013, as well as a gold in the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in 2014.

AT A GLANCE:

Name: Jesse Reynolds

Age: 19

Event: Swimming

Classification: S9, SB9, SM9

Disability: Single limb deficiency

Record: 5th - Men's 400m freestyle S9 in last year's IPC Swimming World Championships.

Personal: Part-time barista who studies at Auckland's University of Technology.

AT A GLANCE: 

Name: Nikita Howarth

Age: 17 

Event: Swimming

Classification: S7, SB8, SM7

Disability: Double limb deficiency

Record: Won gold in the women's 50m butterfly S7 and 200m individual medley SM7 in last year's IPC World Championships.

Personal: Became New Zealand's youngest ever Paralympian at London 2012, aged 13.

 - Stuff

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