23 Feb 2018

Howarth switches from swimming to cycling

8:39 am on 23 February 2018

The Waikato Paralympic swimming champion Nikita Howarth has been selected in the New Zealand para-cycling team to compete at the World Championships.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 - Swimming : 
Women's 200m Individual Medley SM7 Medal Ceremony 
at Olympic Aquatics Stadium
during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Photo: Photosport

Howarth, who became New Zealand's youngest Paralympian at the age of 13 when she represented her country in the pool at the 2012 Paralympics in London, won swimming gold and bronze at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

After a five month break she found her passion for swimming had ebbed, deciding to pursue an interest in cycling that had first been stoked during a school visit by world, Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion cyclist Sarah Ulmer when Howarth was just eight years old.

Howarth was born with a congenital bi lateral 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, swimming had lost its appeal after the highs of the Rio 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 in March, with the velodrome alongside the pool where she starred in 2016.

A heavy training load at Invercargill's SIT Velodrome in and around this week's Elite and Under 19 Track National Championships has been a new experience for Howarth, who picked up bronze medals in the 500m time trial and 3000m individual pursuit as part of the Para-cycling programme.

"I didn't expect to get this far. To get to worlds 18 months after I finished swimming is pretty extreme for me. I just want to prove that I'm a good athlete, doing two sports is an achievement in itself I think, and a medal or two wouldn't hurt, but that's long term stuff."