HM Insights

The Sammi Kinghorn blog – the anatomy (and playlist) of a World Record

At Harper Macleod we're lucky to have Paralympian 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, she is Britain's fastest ever female wheelchair racer and a Paralympian.

In the lead up to being selected for this summer's World Para Athletics Championships in London, Sammi smashed the world record for 200m in the T53 category. Here she takes us through the race which gave her the first world best of her career, as well as the events before and after which created a memory she'll never forget.


Sammi Kinghorn had enjoyed, if that’s the right word for what is such an arduous few months, her best ever winter training season. Feeling strong, she had also settled into her new racing chair, getting used to the new body position and the changes to its set-up that she hoped would help her go faster than ever. Along with her coach Ian Mirfin, she was hoping for a good start to the year.

Still, the first race of the season was always going to be one she looked on with trepidation – even more than usual. This year it came in Arizona, the first race of a US trip which took in a number of high-quality meets and the chance to mingle with some of the world's top wheelchair racers.

The memory of that day is likely to remain etched in her mind for the rest of her life.

Sammi takes up the story: "The 200m was the first race of the season in my new chair and I was really nervous. The day before, I'd been hitting really fast speeds so I felt pretty good. I knew I was going fast but I didn't know what that would amount to on the track, so I was looking forward to getting out and racing. But I was also so scared!

"We'd got to the track a wee bit earlier than usual so I'd been able to do all of my warm-up. I spoke to Ian a wee bit at the start then I didn't speak to him again. I like to sit quietly just before I'm getting ready to go and listen to some music.

The pre-race playlist

"I've got a playlist that I usually listen to before races. It's just songs that remind me of people - like Tina Turner which makes me remember my Mum singing around the house when I was younger. And Chasing Status, which reminds me of me and my friend Caris. They're songs that remind me of happy times with my family and things like that. If there's a new song that comes around and me and my friends really enjoy it, and I can remember being out with them and listening to it, I add that because it allows me to think about these things rather than over-thinking about the race.

"I always go to the toilet before I go out – just a nervous pee! I wait until the last minute, then I go into the call room and get my helmet and my gloves on. In America everyone was very friendly so I was chatting away to the girls I was racing again. That eases my nerves a bit too."

A false start, of sorts

So far, so good. But things never go exactly to plan and as Sammi went on to the track, took her marks and focused on getting the kind of start which is crucial to a good 200m, suddenly the athletes were all pulled back from the line.

Sammi explained: "It turned out there was a girl missing - she didn't have a number on her chair in the call room so she'd gone back and we had to wait for her. We were up 'On Your Marks' and then they told us to roll back. I tried to just chill out and not over think it.

"When the gun finally went I remember I went round the bend and looked down at my speedo and it was showing 19.6mph and I thought, 'Oh, wow, look at that!". I just got my head down and dug deep until I crossed the line."

What World Record?

What happened next, however, is not what you'd expect. The scoreboard didn't flash up 'World Record!', nor did spectators and competitors celebrate her achievement and line up for high-fives. In fact, nobody realised exactly what she had done, least of all Sammi and Ian!

Now, Sammi can at least smile about the fact that she was robbed of her moment of celebration, well, at least for about four hours or so. When it came, it was in a style guaranteed to raise a laugh when the story of her life becomes a movie!

She said: "It was a massive PB and European record so I was really chuffed anyway. My aim was to go under 29 seconds for the 200m this season and it was exciting that I could do that in my first race of the season. I'd even slipped a few times – Arizona is very hot – and I had some scuffs on my arms so there is scope for me to go faster.

"I never really look at the world records because I don't want to be constantly thinking about that when I go on the start line. Ian had told me that it was 28.39, and I did 28.67, so I was just happy to be so close. But he had got the last two digits mixed up and the record was actually 28.93.

"I went on and did my 800m and later that night I was cooking my tea at about 10pm. Ian was on his computer having a wee look to see how my times would rank me as I need to be in the top 5 to be in contention for selection to the British team."

Their conversation went something like this:

Ian: "Samantha."
Sammi: "Yeah?"
Ian: "Em, that was a world record today."

"We both just kind of looked at each other. He didn't get excited at all, I think he was a bit stunned. I was like 'oh my God, can I phone my Dad?' It was four in the morning back home but I phoned him right there and then - he'd have been getting up at five anyway! I'd spoken to Mum and Dad before I was going to compete and they'd said, 'If you do something really amazing just give us a call.' Straight away he said: 'Does this mean something amazing has happened? Is it a new PB?' I said: "Dad, it's a world record." All I could hear was him going crazy. He was crying and waking up Mum.

"I said I had to go to bed as I was racing again in the morning, and Mum told me he drove up to our neighbours and just kind of circled around until he saw that someone was up and he knocked on the door. He was still in his jammies but was too excited not to tell someone."

Fortunately, Dad will be on hand in the London Stadium in July when Sammi goes for glory in the World Para Athletics Championships and he might just get a good night's sleep, no matter what happens.

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