The Sammi Kinghorn blog - World Champion!

At Harper Macleod we're lucky to have double World Champion Samantha ‘Sammi’ Kinghorn as our Athlete Ambassador. We've been part of Team Kinghorn since 2013, when Sammi was a 17-year-old novice. Now 21, in July 2017 she became the best in the world for the first time. At this summer's World Para Athletics Championships in London, Sammi won an amazing sprint double, winning gold in the 100m and 200m in the T53 category (breaking her own world record in the latter). She also added a bronze in the 400m for good measure. Here she looks back at the championships which saw her achieve her dreams and be thrust into the public eye as one of British Athletics' new stars.

Sammi Kinghorn World Champion World Record Harper Macleod

 

London's paved with gold

It's not always easy to play the long game. Sammi Kinghorn's ultimate goals always seemed far away, something it would take many years to achieve. Wheelchair racers aren't expected to reach their peak until they are around 28 and they've become strong enough to cope with the demands of elite competition.

Yet, since she was a 16-year-old novice, Sammi has never wavered in her dedication or her belief that one day she would get there.

Even she was surprised, however, that one of her lifetime dreams has become reality so soon.

In July 2017, Sammi became a double World Champion at the World Para Athletics Championships in London and at the same time announced herself as a new star of British sport. On top of her victories over 100m and 200m, she also managed a bronze medal in the 400m. Understandably, it's a lot to take in.

Sammi said: "I still struggle to put it all in to words, I can't believe it happened. I had gone there just hoping to get a medal so to come away with three was absolutely mad.

"Just now the medals are sitting out on the table because every time someone comes to the house I need to take them out. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them – I've never had something so valuable – I don't know what to do with them!"

Memorable moments gone in a blur ...

It's hard for her to pick a highlight of the championships, which once again were embraced by the British public both at the stadium and through the extensive TV coverage. The races in Sammi's T53 category were among the most competitive in the championships, which made them compulsive viewing and her achievements all the more remarkable.

Sammi explained: "I've watched the races a few times but I really need to sit down with Ian and analyse them. Ian (Mirfin, Sammi's coach) would ask me how the race went and I would say 'I can't remember it'. I can remember the gun going but that's all I can remember. Normally I can remember the first two pushes but I can't even recall those.

"The 200m gold probably meant the most because I beat my World Record and I'll be honest, I love watching that race back - how fast I was able to get out and how I was even able to pull away a bit at the end.

"The 400m surprised me, but then so did the 100m. In the final stages of the 400m I was watching my front wheel and Angie's (Australia's Angela Ballard) front wheel and we were constantly going back and forth – I was winning then she was winning.

"I was literally screaming in my head. I couldn't feel my arms, the lactic acid had well and truly hit. I was throwing my arms and hoping they were hitting the push rims as hard as possible but I couldn't feel anything.

"It felt like an eternity waiting for my name to come up in third place. It was horrible. Even when I watch it again now I'm like 'C'mon, c'mon!'."

"The races were so close, which I think was great for those watching. People can then appreciate how hard everyone is working to get there. You know, nobody was winning our races even like Mo Farah, for example, wins his."

With the 200m gold and 400m bronze in the bag, you would have thought the pressure would have been off for the 100m, her last big medal chance. Not so. While Sammi would triumph, bringing Great Britain its only gold medal of the final day, that was far from a done deal on the start line.

Sammi said: "The 100m always makes me more nervous because I know that if you muck up your start, you're done. I know the Chinese athlete, Hongzhuan Zhou – who I'd never beaten before - is really good at starting, but as she wasn't near me in terms of lane, that couldn't put me off.

"It kept raining and not raining and I didn't know what was happening. I changed my gloves about three or four times on the start line and the woman was getting well annoyed with me but I just said 'it's got to be right!'.

"The crowd was with me then I saw the sun starting to burn through and I was like, 'right, it's not going to rain', I've got this. I put my normal gloves back on and calmed down. Still, I can't remember the race at all. It's a fog. I felt like I was in a tunnel.

"When I crossed the line I didn't know I'd won, and had no idea who'd come second, third or fourth. It was pure disbelief. You don't want to celebrate too soon because you want to check the board and make sure you've definitely won, that my name was there.

"I actually can't wait to watch my Rio 100m again and then watch London, to see the difference a year has made.

While her achievements made London 2017 something she'll never forget, the reception of the entire event by the British public added an extra dimension to the event. The London Stadium welcomed more spectators than the preceding eight World Championships combined. Indeed, it was so good that already there is even talk of making London the de facto home of the championships.

Another home Championships is something Sammi would relish. She said: "Every country's team loves London because we always manage to pull in a good crowd and pull it off. I think maybe even if London was able to host it every alternate event, so having it here every four years, would be amazing. It's getting more recognised but we do want to carry that around the world. Either way, I'm sure it will come back to London."

A star is born

One aspect of her success that is surely impossible to prepare for is that almost overnight Sammi Kinghorn has become a household name. While her family, local community, coaches, fellow competitors, supporters including Harper Macleod and others have been behind her all the way, she's now known and cheered on by a much wider audience.

A large part of this is down to her character and achievements, allied to the tremendous coverage on the Championships on TV.

She said: "It's so nice to hear people talking about you, especially when they're speaking positively. It's going to change a lot for me. It's come a bit quicker than I anticipated but I've just got to keep going now. Wheelchair racers generally don't peak until they're about 28 so I hope I can still get faster. It's weird because I feel like I'm going as fast as I can, how can I go quicker? But I know that I can.

"At the team hotel there were also little posters up if you won a medal so everyone could see who'd won what, it was great. We all sat down and watched the TV coverage in the athletes lounge on the nights we weren't able to go to the stadium. We're really lucky. It was so well done and I'd be interested to find out how many people were watching the coverage.

"They really looked into the athletes' stories and it was excellent. It seemed like everyone was interested and my own phone was going mad. I came off social media for the duration of the Championships so I've been looking through hundreds of messages over the past couple of days."

Team Sammi Kinghorn London 2017 Gold Harper Macleod

The pride of the Borders

While she has won many new fans, those in her home village of Gordon who have been by her side from the start put on an extra-special surprise to show how proud they are of her. Virtually everyone turned out to greet her in the streets as she returned to the family home, with the TV cameras catching a moment that reduced her to tears. The gate to the family home at the farm had even been painted gold.

Sammi explained how she knew nothing about it: "My best friend Caris and I had spent an extra day in London after the Championships had finished. She knew all about what was going on but didn't let on at all. At one point there were loads of texts going through her phone and when I asked her what it was she told me it was something to do with her work and spoke for a good ten minutes about it. It was all made up! I'm going to have trust issues after this, I was very impressed.

"It was so thoughtful for everyone to come out, it was really nice. I'm so happy that I was able to do them proud."

Of course, a special mention is due for her parents Elaine and Neill – who became TV stars in their own right during the event - along with coach Ian. At London 2017, coaches were given medals along with their athletes, and Ian passed one on to Sammi's parents.

Ian had also promised that Sammi could dye his hair any colour she wanted should she win a gold medal and he was true to his word – his multi-coloured barnet popping up during the post-100m celebrations.

Sammi laughed: "The orange is staying in pretty well but the other two colours are washed out a bit. I picked the hair dye that lasted the longest. Some were just for four or five washes but that wasn't happening. He is loving the attention. He was popping his head through every door so that everyone could see it!"

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.

You can also follow Sammi on Twitter and Facebook