At Harper Macleod we're lucky to have double World Champion wheelchair racer Samantha ‘Sammi’ Kinghorn as our Athlete Ambassador. Sammi is hoping to be selected to represent Scotland in the Commonwealth Games next year – which is exactly the situation she was in when we first met her. Here, she reflects on four years of partnership with Harper Macleod and her future dreams.
Signing on for another year as the sporting face of Harper Macleod is a good time for Sammi Kinghorn to reflect on what she has achieved over the course of what is the full 'four-year cycle' for every athlete.
Almost four years ago to the day, in November 2013, a young Sammi came into our offices hoping to be selected for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and what would be her first major championships.
Sammi Kinghorn with Harper Macleod Chief Executive Martin Darroch - 2013-2017
Back then, announcing her as Harper Macleod's new Athlete Ambassador, Chief Executive Martin Darroch said: "Sammi encapsulates the values we believe in as a firm – she is dynamic and driven to achieve her goals regardless of any obstacles put in her way. We believe she'll go on to become one of Scotland's greatest para-athletes and can't wait to cheer her on at Hampden Park next July and for many years to come."
Her future was bright but unknown, with European Championships, World Championships and Paralympic Games hopefully to come.
Now, as she once again waits to hear if she'll represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games next April – this time in Australia's Gold Coast – double World Champion Sammi can look back on those days with multiple gold medals in her trophy cabinet, alongside the 2017 Scottish Sportsperson of the Year Award and many others.
She said: "If you had told me back then what I would have been able to achieve I wouldn't have believed you. It has been a dream come true. I can still remember the excitement of getting my first racing chair and aiming to have a gold medal some day, but I genuinely believed it would be a long way down the line. I might have thought that maybe by Tokyo 2020 I could have a medal and maybe not even a gold, just something.
"It's been such a rollercoaster and I've been very lucky. I haven't had too many lows and I know in sport that's bound to happen at some point. All the experiences I've had have been positive and I've learned something from every event. My job is amazing - I get paid to travel the world.
"I feel like I've never had a year where there's been a quiet period. Things have just kept coming so fast. I remember when the Rio Paralympics seemed an age away and suddenly that had come and gone. Now it's almost just two years til Tokyo.
"To come away at the end of the four years with two World Championships gold medals around your neck is pretty cool. It would be nice to keep that going for another four years. I'm not unbeatable yet so I've still got loads to do!"
It's safe to say that Harper Macleod's hopes for Sammi have also come true, and we've enjoyed a fantastic association with someone who has become very much part of the firm. Our people and all of the firm's friends and clients have become huge Sammi supporters, sharing in the excitement of her become a star in the world of not just para-sport, but UK sport in general.
Sammi said: "It's hard to explain just how grateful I am for the support Harper Macleod has given me. I remember vividly when I came to meet everyone from Harper Macleod and my coach Ian Mirfin said to me that companies don't usually do long term sponsorships. But Harper Macleod have stuck by me right from the start and I've really appreciated it.
"Over the years we've done some really cool stuff together, and it's also great to have been able to repay that faith in some way on the track."
Dreaming of Oz
Sammi won't take her selection for Team Scotland for granted, but she is likely to compete in both the 1500m and marathon in Australia. Neither are favourite distances of the specialist sprinter, but her marathon debut in Chicago where she finished fifth in a time of 1 hour and 43 minutes showed she'll be up for the challenge … and who would bet against her?
She said: "It will be nice to know that I'm going. I've got the qualifying times but it will be good to have it confirmed. It's such a great feeling when you get to compete for Scotland. I always love it when my kit arrives, that's one of my favourite things.
"Loads of athletes from other countries don't get the opportunity that the Commonwealth Games brings. The American athletes don't have any big events to look forward to next season so I'm glad to have the chance to compete at a big event again, especially one that's a mixed event. Having the para-sport running alongside the rest of the events, rather than being a separate event, is important for the profile of our sport. People understand that it's an elite sport, we're in the Games alongside able-bodies athletes. Spectators going along or watching on TV will see us too, and that's how you get people interested in it.
"The whole sport, and the way it is viewed, has changed a lot over the past four years. I notice it most when I'm going into schools to speak to pupils. Kids know some of the names in para sport and they might recognise me from the TV. Things such as Jonnie Peacock being on Strictly are really helping too. I can see a big change in the way people look at para sport.
"I'm biased, but I think that wheelchair racing is great and it's exciting to watch, especially races such as the 1500m. There is loads of moving around and overtaking and if you can get people to watch it they will get intrigued by it.
Unsurprisingly, Sammi wants to win every single race she enters, but if she had just one goal for next year, what would it be? It didn't take long for her to make up her mind: "I'd love to win a medal for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games. It would be amazing.
"When you're part of the GB team at the World Championships, for example, it's so normal for people to win medals and we're getting them every day. In Scotland, in athletics, we don't win that many so when we do it's really celebrated and that would be amazing. They may not be the events I would choose for myself, but I'll give it my best shot?"
In the spotlight
She'll be up against Australian Madison de Rozario in the marathon, who finished just ahead of her in Chicago and who'll be a strong favourite as well as the focus of the home fans. While it's going to be tough to beat her, it also means the marathon in particular will put Sammi right in the TV spotlight.
Sammi explained: "She'll be the one everyone is chasing down so I'll need to try and get on her wheels. We're getting full TV coverage of the wheelchair marathon – we start 90 minutes before the elite men and that 90 minutes will be televised live, which is great exposure. Normally we get a couple of minutes then the runners start and the focus moves to them. We'll probably have the TV car alongside all the way, so my Dad can be watching and crying at home!
"There will be two or three Australians in each of my races, including my old rival Angela Ballard in the 1500m, so it's going to be tough. They're probably going to medal in both events and they'll want to show that.
"It's pretty crazy that my first real race next year will probably be the 1500m at the Commonwealth Games in April. That's scary, as I'll have no idea what form I'll be in, it will just be a case of here I go!
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.