Although it was the most prestigious event she had competed in, Nikita Howarth was by no means overawed.
The 12-year-old has returned after winning silver and bronze medals at the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Canada last month.
Howarth – who has a bilateral upper limb deficiency, meaning she was born with no hands, her arms finishing at about elbow length – made the final in all five events she raced in at Edmonton and set personal bests in all but one.
The year eight Cambridge Middle School student swims in S7 and SB8 for breaststroke and she bettered her three Paralympic New Zealand records.
Those came in the 50m butterfly, where she won silver; the 100m breaststroke, where she picked up bronze; and the 200m individual medley, where she placed fourth. Her other events were the 50m and 100m freestyle, with a personal best achieved in the latter.
And in a first for Paralympics New Zealand, they were able to field a relay team.
So Howarth swum the breaststroke leg of the 4x100m medley relay, with her team coming fourth.
Howarth is a member of the Cambridge Swimming Club and the event was her second overseas meet in a few months after May's Arafura Games in Darwin. Although she didn't go as fast as she would have liked in her 100m breaststroke, she was still delighted.
Howarth's mum, Carmel, said her daughter's next immediate objective is to get three seconds off her 200 IM time to qualify to go to Sheffield in May for the 2012 Paralympics qualifying meet.
"Now she's pretty keen to try to make London, which we always thought might have been a little bit out of the ball park because she's so young, but with her times coming down so well you just don't know do you?"
- © Fairfax NZ News
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