SAILOR Niki Birrell knows only hard work will help him achieve his dream of Paralympic gold this summer.

Along with Alexandra Rickham, the former Lymm High School pupil, will compete in the Skud 18 class at London 2012 and the duo harbour realistic hopes of finishing at the top of the podium.

The four-time world champions will carry the hopes of an expectant nation, but 25-year-old Birrell is confident of handling that pressure.

“Nobody goes to the Paralympics looking for silver, everybody aspires for gold,” said the Skandia Team GBR sailor.

“We know that we’re capable of winning gold medals because we’ve won several regattas.

“Normally there are a couple of strong boats, one particularly being the Australians without ruling anyone else out.

“The secret is hard work; just keep putting in the hours and that way you’ll get better.

“We’ve also tried to find roles which are quite suited to where our strengths lie, and we’ve spent a lot of time working on our partner-ship and our communication.

“Usually when there’s a problem it’s because things haven’t been communicated properly, which is the case throughout everyday life.”

Four years ago in Beijing, Birrell and Rickham watched on as British sailors performed admirably in the Olympic Games, before they finished fifth themselves in the Paralympics.

Birrell, who has a degree in business and management studies from Salford University, is now hoping to take advantage of competing in familiar waters at Weymouth and Portland.

They will get their final chance of getting used to the Paralympic venue at this month's Skandia Sail for Gold regatta.

He said: “The home advantage is great and it’s more about feeling comfortable off the water.

“In terms of the actual water I don’t think there will be a great advantage because all of the top teams will have top coaches who will have spent plenty of time there themselves.

“I like it down there, I know some sailors don’t but I really like it there and feel very comfortable off the water.”

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