In Kelso, a small market town situated in the Scottish Borders is a 17 year old girl full of nothing else but a joy for life mixed with a fierce competitive determination.
Samantha Kinghorn’s achievements, since taking up the sport of Wheelchair Racing (T53) 12 months ago, are nothing short of remarkable. In fact, she has gone from beginner, to novice, to part-time, to a fully fledged full-time para-athlete, who is ranked second in Europe – all this in a 12 month period.
However, to understand where this drive comes from requires back-tracking to the start of the story. “As a kid, I did everything from gymnastics, to working on the farm, to ballet to even a little bit of rugby.” Then one winter’s day in 2010, she was swamped by snow falling from a house roof and in an instant her life changed for ever.
“I knew I had broken my back straight away. Nobody else realised this and as I was going through tests everybody was like ‘no no you will be fine’. Then I was suddenly left alone in the hospital room while my parents were being told and I said to myself, so this it, I’m going to be stuck in bed and not able to walk for ever. I started to plan my life, I had decided to go to university online and setup an online business then my parents came back in the room with the confirmation.”
“At the start I didn’t think I was going to be able to do anything but then I was given my wheelchair, then I was allowed out of bed. My physiotherapist took me to Redstar racing club. As soon as I saw it, I was like ‘I want to do that’.”
Whether it is endurance training around the quiet roads of the Scottish Borders or training on a set of rollers that her Dad made for her on the farm, Sammi (as she is known by her friends) has a remarkable attitude to life. “If it rains outside, runners can still run. Well wheelchair rims are made from rubber and rubber on rubber is so slippy, that’s why I have the indoor rollers, but I still love sliding around in the wet. I guess I’m weird like that, there is a hill near my house that I can hit 46mph on.”
A psychology and counseling career combined with motivational speaking is what she has planned out for the long term, but Sammi very much sees her current focus on the sport she loves. However, the road ahead is not smooth.
“So I’m a T53 which means I only have the ability to push through my arms and shoulders. While at Glasgow 2014 it is a T54 event which means those guys will have full abdominals as well. I race flat on my knees but they can lift themselves up and down. It is a challenge but that is always fun and just getting there and competing in a race is a massive achievement. I would race against Usain Bolt if it meant getting on that track in Scottish kit in front of a home crowd.”
Sammi’s next challenge comes this weekend as she competes in the Swiss Junior Championships, which regularly attracts the world’s elite. Sammi will race in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m.
You can follow Sammi on Twitter @Sam_Kinghorn
Photo Credit: Ian Mirfin