Sammi Kinghorn exclusive interview: 'Life isn't a smooth path. I hope my experiences can inspire others'

Telegraph 1 month ago

When Sammi Kinghorn first started athletics, her ambition was for internet searches of her name to one day list her sporting achievements above details of the accident that put her in the position for this to be her career.

That goal has already been achieved regardless of whether she successfully defends her T53 100m world title in Dubai on Friday to follow Paul Blake’s gold which kickstarted Britain’s medal quest on the opening night of World Para Athletics Championships action.

But Kinghorn does not shy away from that fateful day in 2010 - without it she would not be where she is now, excelling in the sport she so loves.

The details of the accident itself have been repeated numerous times: that a 14-year-old Kinghorn had been airlifted to hospital after suffering severe spinal injuries at her family’s farm in Berwickshire made national news at the time in Scotland.

Kinghorn had been playing around when she jumped onto her father Neill’s forklift truck without his knowledge and he had no idea she was there as he lowered the bucket down on top of her, crushing her in the process.

It is a story that sounds no less traumatic with each re-telling, but Kinghorn is adamant she does not want to forget about the accident that put her in a wheelchair. Instead, she wants to use it as inspiration.

Samantha Kinghorn of Great Britain celebrates after winning gold in the Womens 100m T53 final during day ten of the IPC World ParaAthletics Championships 2017
Kinghorn was two golds at the 2917 World ParaAthletics Championships in London

“It’s nice that I have a story and somewhere I came from, especially when I go into schools and talk, when I’m able to say that life isn’t a smooth path,” she says. “There are lots of twists and turns, but you can always achieve something. I hope it can inspire others.”

She admits her outlook would likely not be the same without achieving so much on the track, including a glorious double gold in London two years ago.

“It would be very different if I hadn’t done anything and just lay down and let it take me,” she says. “Getting out and doing sport has helped my life a lot - even meeting people who are worse off with their disability and seeing them push through every day. Meeting people like that in sport inspires you to want to do more.”

There is another very important person whose perspective has been shaped by Kinghorn’s success in sport: her father Neill. Kinghorn spent years telling him the accident was her fault rather than his, but he has admitted it is “bitter-sweet” watching his daughter excel in a wheelchair.

The crucial factor, says Kinghorn, is the happiness he can see athletics brings her. “He knows I’m doing something I love and I enjoy,” she says. “That really helps him.

“It’s actually not really the accomplishments - my dad always just always wanted me to do something I enjoy.

“He loves his job [as a farmer] and I used to love going to work with him and see someone do something they really enjoy. He enjoys seeing me do something that I really love.”

Paul Blake runs in Dubai
Paul Blake stormed to victory in the T36 800m

Tales detailing her accident will likely shift further down the internet after she competes in Friday’s final. Brushing aside her own concerns that she may not be in gold-medal shape after being forced to take seven weeks off the track this summer for an operation, she advanced from Thursday’s semi-finals as the fastest qualifier on a woefully attended opening night in Dubai.

The lack of crowd did little to dampen Blake’s celebrations as he completed a T36 800m hat-trick to regain the title he won in 2013 and 2015.

Starved of nutrients and oxygen - which instead went to his twin brother Alex - at birth, Blake was not expected to even survive but has excelled on the track in spite of developing cerebral palsy.

Having run just one 800m race since claiming silver at the 2016 Paralympics, the gold medal was never in doubt here as he triumphed by almost half the home straight in 2min 7.44sec. That lack of competition stemmed from the event being cut from next year’s Paralympics, which leaves Blake unable to replicate his victory in Tokyo.

“It is a real shame because the event is strong, but the athletes are tending to lean more towards the sprints,” he said.

“I’m really happy to come away with Britain’s first gold. Hopefully it inspires some of the other British athletes and it gives me great confidence going into the 400m next week.”

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