Commonwealth Games: Kinghorn in Team Scotland

WHEN Samantha Kinghorn found she would be unable to walk after suffering horrific spinal injuries in a freak accident in the snow, competing in the Commonwealth Games could not have been further from her mind.

Athlete Samantha Kinghorn holds her medal from the London Marathon. Picture: Alastair Watson

But yesterday, nearly three years after that life-changing day, the 17-year-old from Berwickshire was named among the first tranche of Team Scotland athletes selected to compete in next year’s Games in Glasgow.

In what represents a remarkable journey of determination, she will grace Hampden Stadium in July flying the saltire.

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Having had ambitions to visit as a spectator, she is now getting used to the news she will attend as a competitor, and says she is “ecstatic”.

Samantha said: “Before my accident I never ever thought competing at such a level in anything would be an option.

“I think back sometimes and wonder, what would I actually be doing right now if I hadn’t had my accident.”

Samantha suffered a serious spinal injury while clearing snow outside her house in the village of Gordon on 2 December, 2010, and spent the next five months on her back in Glasgow’s spinal injuries unit.

She left hospital on 2 May the following year, a young woman nervous about her new life, until sport gave her renewed purpose.

She was introduced to disabled sport that October by the Scottish Borders Disability Sport Group and popular Borders coach Jed Renilson, agreeing to go along and help to take the entries.

One of those who visited in Jedburgh was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Britain’s leading Paralympian, who encouraged her to try out her racing chair. Samantha followed up that initial interest and joined the Red Star Athletics Club in Glasgow. She is now the European ranked number-two in her category.

“When I started having a go in a racing wheelchair, I thought it would take me maybe two years just to learn how to race and I hoped that maybe I could go to the Games and see some fantastic athletes,” she said.

“Tanni inspired me and over the past year, as my times have improved, I’ve just thought, ‘I want this’. I want to be in Glasgow 2014. I’m so delighted to be named in the squad.”

Samantha only has use of her arms, but in Glasgow she will have to compete against athletes with full torso mobility, and over a longer distance than the usual sprint events. “It’s not going to be easy but nothing is easy,” she added. “I am a determined person and if I had to race against Usain Bolt I would do it to be part of the Commonwealth Games.”

She added: “Obviously, it was a horrible accident and it was really tough coming to terms with it. But I have spent the past year and more travelling the world meeting great people and now I’m going to the Commonwealth Games. I have to say that my life is just wonderful now.”