#24) Sammi Kinghorn


Ask any journalist to recount everything they’ve written and it is almost guaranteed they won’t be able to remember the majority.

But every now and again there is one that sticks with you forever.

For me that’s the tale of Sammi Kinghorn.

What the wheelchair racer has achieved, not just on the track but in life as a whole, is phenomenal.

Around eight years ago the social, sporty teenager was in an accident on the family farm that was to change her life forever, left paralysed below the waist after being crushed by a forklift while her Dad was clearing snow.

Now she is a double World and triple European champion, dual world record holder and Paralympic finalist in a sport she didn’t know existed at the time of the accident.

I was fortunate enough to speak to Sammi for the SportSpiel podcast last year and her account of the accident was incredibly honest and moving.

“I can still remember my heart thumping out of my chest as I felt my back go – I felt it break and I knew it wasn’t good,” the sprinter recalled.

“I watched my Dad shovel up some snow and lifted the bucket up and I thought ‘I have to get out now, I need to run away’.

“I ran for a bit but then slipped and fell. As I lay on the ground I felt my legs spasming pretty bad, all my muscles were twitching and then everything just tightened up and then let go.

“I knew that was the last time that I was going to feel my legs again.”

What was really striking was the maturity with which Kinghorn spoke about an experience so difficult for most to comprehend, let alone imagine.

But this is an individual who knows life has already dealt her its worst hand and is now determined to make the most of everything she has.

 

This is something clear to see every time she races, with the only time a beaming smile is not emitting from her face being when she’s in full flow, while her social media profiles indicate a young woman loving every moment.

Not that it’s been an easy ride for Kinghorn, in particular adjusting to a life without the use of her legs immediately after sustaining the injury.

“It was always really silly things, more frustration at not being able to do things as fast as I used to  rather than being upset,” the 2017 sportscotland/Sunday Mail Sports Personality of the Year explained.

“Just getting into a car and things like that, that’s what I got more frustrated about rather than lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself – I didn’t get that because I was just pleased I was alive.

“The thing I got most frustrated about was not being able to wear heels one night, I got really upset over it. I had bottled things up and then got really upset because I couldn’t put heels on my feet.

“I remember my friend laughing at me, saying ‘you didn’t cry when you broke your back, why are you crying because you can’t put these heels on your feet?’ It’s funny now looking back but in the moment, I was 14-years-old and all I cared about was the way I looked.”

Being in the crowd to watch Kinghorn storm to her first World Championship gold at the London Stadium last July was a special moment.

Having been lucky enough to share in her story, it was a privilege to see her claim that maiden title and the roar from the crowd as she crossed the line would even have put a smile on a pre-spiritual-haunting Ebenezer Scrooge’s face.

Not that Kinghorn’s skills and qualities are limited to the track.

She is also determined to help enhance the nation’s knowledge and understanding of disability – something she barely knew about in her formative years – and spends much of her time delivering inspirational talks to schoolchildren.

“I find it really important because I had no knowledge of disability growing up,” the 22-year-old explained.

“It was a very scary place for me to be in when I was told that I was never going to walk again. I feel like it’s something that should be introduced to schools and kids should know about it.

“A lot of kids don’t know how to approach someone. They get told to hush by their parents, don’t stare, don’t look and I think they should be allowed to ask any questions they want before you get to a certain age, you’re too scared to ask and just start to assume things.

“Kids take it really well – once they’ve accepted I’m just the same as them, I just can’t use my legs, they just want a go in my wheelchair, they don’t really care after that which I think is really great.”

Having spent the early part of 2018 focusing on long distance events – finishing in fantastic fourth places in the 1500m and marathon at while representing Scotland at Gold Coast 2018 – Kinghorn will return to sprinting next season.

And with another World Championships and Paralympics on the horizon, expect to see more of this incredible young woman featuring on your screens and in your social media feeds.

Listen to the full SportSpiel interview with Kinghorn here.

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