Sammi Kinghorn keeping Olympic frustration in perspective

Main focus of paralympian’s year postponed to 2021

Sammi Kinghorn competing in the marathon at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty

Sammi Kinghorn has been finding lockdown as tough as anyone, with the added frustration that her primary focus of the year – the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics – has been postponed until next year.

However, the 24-year-old wheelchair athlete has reserves of resolve and a sense of perspective.

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It is now almost ten years since she broke her back in an accident on her family’s farm in the Borders. Her recovery and ascent to becoming a world champion para-athlete is about as inspirational as it comes in Scottish sport.

Kinghorn managed to make it back to the farm, near Gordon, from her new base in Glasgow before lockdown kicked in and is grateful to be with her parents and have the training needs she requires, as well as a philosophical perspective on the current situation.

“It is deeply frustrating that the season is on hold and Tokyo won’t be happening this year,” she said. “But that is just how it is and we have to deal with it.

“As an athlete you work on a four-year cycle and everything is planned in great detail to ensure you are peaking for those majors and, obviously, there’s none bigger of those than a Paralympics.

“Everything was looking good heading towards that but then this situation has happened, which is a shame, but it has been called off for a good reason, people’s health always comes first.”

Kinghorn was a double world champion in the T53 100m and 200m at London 2017 and has been keeping up with training back on the farm.

“It’s been good as we have a gym here and I have been able to get out on the roads a bit,” she explained.

“It feels like a good place to be at the moment. I’ve loved living in Glasgow in a flat close to the Emirates and the conveniences city life can offer but I’ll always be a country girl at heart.

“I think like a lot of people right now I’m just trying to keep active and be prepared for when we do get back into competition, though we really don’t know when that will be at the moment, but also just enjoy being with family and relaxing a bit.”

Kinghorn is now part of the Glasgow disability sports club Red Star where she is coached by Ian Mirfin MBE. Classified as a T53 para-athlete she is the fastest-ever female British wheelchair racer regardless of classification over 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m.

After a fifth-place finish as a teenager in the 1,500m at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, her major breakthrough came when she represented Team GB at the 2014 IPC European Championships in Swansea and won Britain’s first gold medal in the T53 Women’s 400m, then went on to win further golds over 100m and 800m.

The loss of Tokyo this year does sting, of course, as Kinghorn was confident she could improve on her displays at Rio 2016, when she made finals in all her events, placing fifth in the 100m.

A sprinter by nature, as well as someone always up for a challenge, Kinghorn went more long-distance in her last major championship in a Scottish vest for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast.

With no para-sprint events on the schedule for the mixed competition she tried her hand at 1,500m and the marathon, placing fourth in both.

That infamous placing just off the podium can be the most agonising for an athlete but life is always not medals and Kinghorn looks back on that experience with pride as she surpassed her own goals.

“The marathon was especially brutal,” she said. “I’d only ever done one full marathon before that for preparation in Chicago and I knew it was going to be a real challenge.

“The girls always tend to go off fast and try to establish that leading pack, which is tough to keep up with.

“A lot of people who do marathons often talk about the last few miles being the toughest but it was the first part for me, just trying to keep pace. Once it got to the end stage I felt okay, I knew I can always push for six miles in 25 minutes any day and that’s what I did.”

Kinghorn was looking forward to a return of focus on the sprinting side of things and was feeling her speed was back to high levels after training in Australia at the start of the year with her great friend and legendary five-time Team GB Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockroft.

Tokyo was the dream but will have to be put on hold for now.

“I’ve never been to Japan and was really looking forward to it,” added Kinghorn.

“The plan was to head there in March for a reccy but obviously that fell by the wayside. Next year, hopefully.”

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