Paralympian Nikita Howarth announces her retirement looking to the future
Paralympian Nikita Howarth has announced her retirement from Para sport today due to medical reasons. Howarth became New Zealand’s youngest ever Paralympian at the age of 13 when she made her Paralympic debut competing in Para swimming at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The following year she was crowned a world champion. It has been a meteoric rise.
Howarth went on to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympics with a clear goal of winning a gold medal. She achieved her goal and bettered it by one medal, also winning bronze.
Not satisfied with concurring Para swimming at a global level Howarth set herself a new challenge and in 2017 began her journey in the sport of Para cycling. Less than one year after starting the sport she competed at her first UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships. In December 2018 Nikita broke the Flying 200m sprint world record. Her time of 12.95 seconds took 0.248 seconds off the previous record set by New Zealand Paralympian Kate Horan in February 2016.
Howarth’s drive and commitment have been evident from a young age. Learning to swim aged “three or four” she started the sport competitively aged seven before making her international Para swimming debut as a 12-year-old. Howarth who was born with a bilateral upper limb deficiency was inspired to one day win a Paralympic Gold medal following a school visit from 2004 Olympic cycling champion Sarah Ulmer, Howarth has wasted no time in pursuing her dreams.
Howarth said: “From the time I first set my sights on Paralympic success I have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to achieve my goals. Para sport has provided me with amazing opportunities to be the best I can be across both Para swimming and Para cycling. I hope that many disabled New Zealanders get to experience what I have like travelling around the world and making lifelong friendships while achieving their goals. I feel as if I have achieved what I aspired to do and I am proud of that.”
She continued: “The decision to retire has not come easily however due to my auto immune disease my body is no longer letting me continue to perform at the highest level. I have always known there is much more to life than just sport and I’m now ready to move on and develop my life in other areas. I recently started a retail job that I am really enjoying and looking forward to see where that may lead in the future.”
Malcolm Humm (High Performance Director, Paralympics New Zealand) said: “From the time Nikita was identified in Taranaki at the 2009 Independence Games as a 9-year-old it was evident she had what it would take to become a Paralympic Champion. Her swimming ability was obvious in all four strokes and she had a high desire to be the best in the world. From the time she entered the PNZ Para Swimming High Performance Programme in 2011 she was a pleasure to work with, always committed, hardworking and she demonstrated a desperate desire to win. Having won gold and bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Nikita transitioned into the PNZ Para Cycling Programme where she displayed the same qualities in terms of her motivation to perform at the highest level. She was a quick learner and relished the Para cycling environment culminating in her breaking the Women’s C4 Flying 200m sprint world record at the Southland Champs in November 2018. We look forward to continuing to work with Nikita to identify ways in which she can continue to be involved in the Paralympic family. We wish her all the best for the future.”
Howarth was a key member of the New Zealand Paralympic Team that produced performances in Rio making it the country’s most successful Paralympic Games ever. The New Zealand Paralympic Team secured a stunning 21 medals across 12 individual medallists – 9 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze. Overall, the Team placed 13 out of 159 on the medal table, its highest placing ever, and defended its title of number 1 in the world for medals won per capita during London 2012.