At Harper Macleod we're lucky to have Samantha ‘Sammi’ Kinghorn, Britain's fastest ever female wheelchair racer, as our Athlete Ambassador. We've been part of Team Kinghorn since 2013, when Sammi was a 17-year-old with big dreams, including hoping to appear at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Since then it has been incredible to see what she has achieved –triple European champion, World Championships bronze medallist and at Rio 2016, a Paralympian. She has gone from being starstruck to becoming a star in her own right, someone others look up to and who is frequently referred to as an 'inspiration'. But what does that feel like? Here, Sammi reflects on what it's like to be seen as a role model, the responsibility that brings, and the people who inspire her.
Setting a good example
An “inspiration” to me is someone that I look up to, someone who I feel works so hard and is driven to achieve what they want in life. I personally don’t see myself as an “inspiration” because I have so many people that I look up to and would call my “inspirations” that I find it so strange when someone says they look up to me. It is slightly embarrassing, though it is lovely when a child comes up to you and says that you inspire them in any way. However, I don’t think I will ever get used to it.
I feel as though as a sportsperson there is a responsibility to set a good example. We have so many people watching us, including young children who dream of being athletes one day, that it’s only right to set a good example. I don’t really see it as a burden because I want to be a good person and want people to see that show through, whether I’m on the telly, in an interview or even in person.
Seizing the day
When I go to give talks and tell my story, a lot of people can relate to it because everyone goes through hard times in life. Though it might not be anything like what I have experienced, they still deal with things they never thought they would have to. I try to teach them that the important thing is how you come out of what you have been through - what you can learn to make yourself a better person.
The biggest thing I think people young and old take from my story, and something I really try to push, is the importance of taking opportunities when they arise. I know that at school or in life it's so easy to just say “I will do it tomorrow”, then you never do. So I hope my story shows that anything can happen in your life and you need to take opportunities that come your way so that you can live without regrets.
One thing I still get embarrassed about is winning awards because I absolutely love my sport so someone giving me an award just for doing something I love is strange. But it’s so nice and overwhelming also to see that people are proud of the things I am trying do and that I'm working so hard to achieve. I keep all my awards in a big cabinet in the living room, with all of them very proudly placed.
When I was younger my biggest sporting inspiration was Beth Tweddle because I was in love with gymnastics. As I have grown older and my circumstances have changed now my sporting inspiration is Tatyana McFadden who is arguably the best wheelchair racer ever. She had a tough start to life, being born in Russia then being adopted by an American family and moving to America at a young age. To go on to become the multi gold medallist that she is just incredible and she's someone that works so unbelievably hard and is so down to earth.
Overall though, my biggest inspirations will always be my parents. My father has always taught me that life can be long if you don’t love what you do. I have watched him go to work every day with a smile on his face because he loves his job and I’m so pleased that I can now do that also. My mum is simply the most incredibly caring person I know. She will always help out anyone in need and is always there when you just need someone to listen to. She has taught me to be kind and to always remember where I come from. I always hope that, whatever I do in life, I can always make my family proud.
Find out more
You can find out more about Harper Macleod and Sammi here.
You can see the short film we made with Sammi as she trained around her Borders home here.