Sammi Kinghorn and Stef Reid became Scotland’s golden girls of Super Saturday at the world para athletics championships in London, the duo triumphing as the UK’s medal tally at the showpiece expanded still further.
Kinghorn, still only 21, has been transformed since missing out on the podium in Rio last summer with world and European records aplenty this season. Older, wiser and savvier to the tricks of a wheelchair racing trade that can often be brutal to the point of viciousness on the track, the Borderer confirmed her emergence with a comprehensive victory in the T53 200 metres final, lowering her world record to 28.61 seconds, a marked upgrade from her bronze in Doha in 2013.
A clearly delighted Kinghorn said last night: “It honestly means everything. This has been the dream since I started – to be world champion and I still can’t believe I can say it. I knew that if I could get out there, hopefully I could stay ahead. I still can’t believe it.”
Kinghorn will have three further shots at glory this week. This distance was her prime opportunity, however, and she capitalised ruthlessly. Her best, her coaches believe, lies further ahead.
Reid, by contrast, had one solitary chance in the T44 long jump and seized it with both hands. Clutching the gift of a drawing from a small boy inspired by her tale as she departed the track, the 31-year-old’s exuberant smile painted a picture that said everything about what claiming a gold medal should represent.
Pondering what direction she could take next after acquiring her second successive Paralympic silver in Rio last summer, her decision to step out of her comfort zone and seek reinvigoration was rewarded with a leap of 5.40 metres that was enough to hold her rivals at bay.
Few competitors have so great a vested interest in these ten days in Stratford as the New Zealand-born, Canada-raised Scot. For the past 12 months she has combined training in Loughborough under her new coach Aston Moore with evenings poring over spreadsheets in her role as one of the directors of London 2017.
“There are always those voices in the back of your head and moments of self-doubt,” she said. “You wonder if you are always destined to be silver and you have to ask some really tough questions of yourself because if you believe that, then you may as well retire now. I still believed that there is more for me and I still believe that now. It’s part of the reason I am still interested in Tokyo 2020.”
The UK head the medal table with six golds with Richard Whitehead winning his fourth world title on the eve of his 41st birthday in the T42 200m in a championship record of 23.26. While there were further world records for Hollie Arnold in the F46 javelin and Sophie Hahn in the T38 200m.
However Paralympic gold medallist Jo Butterfield was forced to pull out of the discus final 24 hours after her injured shoulder could only carry her to fourth place in the club.
Jonnie Peacock will top this evening’s bill as he defends his T44 100m title while Maria Lyle goes in the T35 200m. The 17-year-old from East Lothian, a double silver medallist two summers ago, will take the challenge in her stride. “Of course I’ve got expectations for me,” she said. “But I’m not thinking ‘I need to get this medal.’ I just run things my way and if I get the medal after that, it will be ok.”