For Paralympian Anna Grimaldi, growing up with a limb deficiency wasn't always easy.

She made sure she could do the basics such as tie her shoes and catch a ball but couldn't help feel mostly out of place among her peers.

However, that all changed when she received an unexpected email from Paralympics New Zealand inviting her to a para-athletics training camp in her home city of Dunedin.

"They emailed me to say 'thanks for expressing interest' and I definitely hadn't expressed any interest, so someone out there was looking out for me," she says. "I felt like I wasn't up to that standard though and so I was really nervous.

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"But up until then, I hadn't met anyone that had an arm missing or someone who looked like me. So sport became the place where I felt really comfortable and the most normal."

Anna Grimaldi in the Rio Paralympic Games. Photo / Getty
Anna Grimaldi in the Rio Paralympic Games. Photo / Getty

Having met her coach at the camp, Grimaldi started training in para-athletics, not thinking much of what her sporting future held.

Now just six years on from joking about the Games as if it were a far-fetched dream, Grimaldi is set to defend Paralympic gold with sights set on Tokyo.

"Rio wasn't on my radar at all, so now with Tokyo potentially being my second Paralympics, it makes it even more crazy," she says.

Grimaldi won the T47 class in the long jump with 5.62m, improving her personal best by 21cm, and also placed fourth in the 100m.

It hasn't been smooth sailing during the past 18 months for Grimaldi, who suffered a stress fracture in her foot shortly after the 2017 world para athletics championships.

The 22-year-old admits she contemplated calling it quits last year when things weren't getting better but thanks to the support from those closest to her, she fought through her recovery.

Anna Grimaldi shows her gold medal. Photo / Photosport
Anna Grimaldi shows her gold medal. Photo / Photosport

"It would have been so easy to quit. There were so many months where every time I walked, my foot was screaming at me," she says. "I was in a limbo stage where I asked myself if I should just walk away from sport.

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"All my thoughts were skewed into the negative and it was really hard to see any positives but those people around me who had optimism and hope that I would come out the other side a better athlete and a better person, they dragged me out of the hole I had dug myself into.

"I feel like it's really worked in my favour. I feel like my career has had a fresh start and I'm really looking forward to what's to come."

Para-athletics teammate William Stedman, who was the youngest athlete in New Zealand's Rio Paralympics team at just 16, is also set on donning the fern in Tokyo.

Competing in the T36 class, Stedman set personal bests at Rio in the 400m (55.69s) and 800m (2m 11.98s) on the way to claiming bronze in both events.

Having suffered similar challenges with a foot injury, Stedman says he's looking forward to getting back out on the world stage.

William Stedman competing in the men's long jump T36 final during day the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships. Photo / Getty
William Stedman competing in the men's long jump T36 final during day the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships. Photo / Getty

"There's a joy in thinking about the goal you're trying to get, but also realising that it is just a sport and life will still go on even if you can't compete," he says.

"It's finding that balance around staying motivated but also realising it's not absolutely everything.

"I'm just focused on jumping the furthest and running the fastest that I can, then the rest will come hopefully."

Grimaldi and Stedman were part of Paralympic New Zealand's Para Sport Pop-Up launch in Auckland on Friday to celebrate Spirit of Gold Day to raise awareness and funds for the 2020 Paralympics team.

William Stedman won double bronze in Rio. Photo / Getty
William Stedman won double bronze in Rio. Photo / Getty

The Pop-Up which offers the public interactive have a go experiences is set to travel around the country in the lead-up to Tokyo.

Stedman, who was first inspired by watching the London Paralympic Games, says it's special to now play a part in inspiring younger para-athletics himself.

"To go out to the public and show kids there is someone out there like you that you can look up to is really special," he says. "The main thing for me is raising awareness.

"It would be cool to see more young people inspired and keen to give sport a go."