World champion sprinter has Commonwealth Games qualification in mind as she makes her 26.2-mile debut
Sammi Kinghorn isn’t going to lie – she describes the prospect of covering 26.2 miles as something that “scares me a lot”.
The world champion wheelchair athlete is not about to let any pre-race nerves get the better of her, however, as she prepares to make her marathon debut in Chicago this weekend.
She has travelled out to America with thoughts of her native Scotland very much in her mind – the plan is to qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, where she also intends to race the 1500m, given that her favoured sprint events are not on the schedule in Australia.
Kinghorn has set herself a considerable challenge, given that she spent the summer excelling on the track in London by clinching world gold at 100m and 200m – an event in which she also broke the world record – as well as taking bronze in the 400m.
She has devoted countless hours to achieving success on the oval but, almost no sooner had the 21-year-old done that than she threw herself into the wildly different vagaries of road racing.
Tendinitis in her wrist has hardly made marathon preparations any easier, yet it’s that incentive of pulling on a Scotland vest again, following an unforgettable Commonwealth Games experience in Glasgow three years ago where she came fifth in the T54 1500m, which is proving hugely motivational.
“I’m mad, absolutely crazy,” chuckles Kinghorn, who has warmed up with races at the Simplyhealth Great North Run and Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run 10k, when asked about her marathon mission.
“It scares me a lot. 26 miles seems very long and I know it is a very long way. I’ve done up to 18/19 miles in training and I know you’ve got that extra 20 per cent on top of that in competition. I love racing on the road because it’s completely different (to the track).
“Glasgow 2014 was the best experience of my life and to pull on that Scotland vest again would be incredible.
“In sport you strive so hard to wear the vest – you want to represent your country. Yes, it’s not in my select events and I’m probably not going to win it in the same way I might do in the 100m – it’s going to be completely different for me – but I’m going to wear that vest with pride.”
“Glasgow 2014 was the best experience of my life and to pull on that Scotland vest again would be incredible”
Securing that Commonwealth place would be a fitting end to a year into which Kinghorn has crammed so many new experiences and raised her performance levels, as well as her profile, to new heights.
That much was evident last month when she became the first para athlete to win the Scottish Sportsperson of the Year at the Team Scotland Scottish Sports Awards.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” says Kinghorn. “It’s amazing, though, that para athletes are getting recognition and it makes me feel good that I’m helping.
“I got handed the award and it read, Chris Hoy, Andy Murray, Katherine Grainger and Samantha Kinghorn…
“I remember being a young girl, watching Chris Hoy and being amazed – so to be anywhere near to being compared to them is incredible.”
Kinghorn admits her achievements this year are taking a while to sink in.
“I’ve not had the chance to enjoy it all yet,” she adds. “I was so grateful for all the experiences I had in London, then I had a week off training but I came home and that was like a whirlwind – you want to see all your family, you want to see everyone – and then it was back to training to try to qualify for the marathon.
“I’m going to take some time before Christmas and then maybe it will sink in but I go to schools and hand out my medals and I still think ‘are those mine?’. I still get goosebumps from it all, it was incredible.”
“I remember being a young girl, watching Chris Hoy and being amazed – so to be anywhere near to being compared to them is incredible”
Those additions to her trophy cabinet are the result of a vow she made to her father at the Paralympics back in Brazil last year.
“In Rio I was fifth and sixth, which was incredible, but to be number one in the world less than a year later is amazing. I’ll watch myself back and think ‘why couldn’t I have gone that fast a year ago?’.
“My sport is very technical and the push technique is very technical so, once you get it, you do really get it. I watched the girls I was competing against in Rio and I watched them get up on that podium, getting their medals and singing their national anthem and it was at that moment I remember turning to my dad and saying ‘I’m going to win a medal at our home games in London’. He said ‘you go for it’.
“I felt that’s what I needed to do to get myself noticed, to get myself out there.
“I didn’t care what colour of medal it was going to be, so for it to be gold was amazing.
“I also got a new chair at the start of the year from Loughborough. I went down there for a wee while and they were probably getting very angry at me for how specific I was with my design but I was starting to be more aware of how I needed my chair to be and how I needed it to feel when I’m pushing – so I think all of those things have come together at the right time.”