Commonwealth Games: Samantha Kinghorn dreams of home success

At the age of 14, Samantha Kinghorn's life was that of a typical teenager - a mixture of homework, hockey and ballet.

Three years later, Samantha is anything but a typical 17-year-old.

She now finds herself a wheelchair user but less than three years after being paralysed, she is the fastest female racer in the UK in her T53 category.

"I want a gold medal, a world record and to be known the world over for my sport," she told BBC Sport.

Kinghorn timeline

  • 2 Dec 2010 - Suffered a spinal injury while clearing snow outside her house
  • October 2011 - Met Baroness Grey-Thompson who inspired her to try wheelchair racing and join the Red Star Athletics Club in Glasgow
  • 2011 - Started competing in wheelchair racing, becoming number one in the UK across all distances
  • 25 Sept 2013 - Named as part of Team Scotland to compete in the Commonwealth Games

What sets the girl from the borders apart from most others her age, is her sheer determination to get to where she wants to be after tragedy set her off on a path that she never thought possible.

She has never lacked confidence but the sporting storybook of success that she is currently writing has a tragic opening chapter.

In December 2010 she was crushed by falling snow on the family farm while helping her father.

"I remember my dad dragging me into the house and sitting me on the washing machine and I just folded in half from the bottom of my ribs," recalled Kinghorn.

"That's when I thought to myself, that's not right.

"I was in a lot of pain, so my dad put me on the floor and that's when I said to my parents, my back is broken, I'm never going to walk again, so you better call an ambulance."

She spent six months in hospital and despite gruelling, daily physiotherapy sessions, had resigned herself to never leaving bed.

"I thought about setting up an internet company or even doing a university course online, anything to keep me occupied," she said.

But that changed when a doctor brought a wheelchair into her room for the first time.

"It was the happiest day of my life," she added.

"To know that I would get out of bed was the best thing I had ever heard because I had planned out my life."

To know that I would get out of bed was the best thing I had ever heard

Samantha Kinghorn

From there she travelled to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, which specialises in para-sports, and she quickly realised that she had a talent for speed in the chair.

"I was watching this girl going round and round on the track and going really fast - that's when I thought, that is the sport for me," said Kinghorn.

"I've always loved adrenaline rushes and I got that in my first race."

After meeting up with athletics coach Ian Mirfin, who won the BBC Sports Unsung Hero award at the 2011 Sports Personality of the Year ceremony, she decided she wanted to dedicate her life to sport and see how far she could push herself.

She quickly won a number of races across the country and after only two years in the chair, cemented herself as the number one T53 racer in the UK across all distances.

With Glasgow 2014  looming she knew she had a good chance of making the squad but did not want to take anything for granted.

The call she was waiting for came in September, when she was one of 23 Team Scotland athletes named in their first round of announcements. 

"I'm really nervous but it will be amazing to step out at the opening ceremony and hear the noise, I can't wait," she said.

She is targeting a place in the final because she is having to move up from her T53 class to the T54 class in the 1500m and will be racing against less-disabled athletes, but she has also set her sights on next year's European Championships in Swansea and then taking gold in Rio in 2016.

T53 and T54 differences

  • T53 - Athletes who have normal arm muscle power with no abdominal or lower spinal muscle activity
  • T54 - Athletes who have normal arm muscle power and may have have partial trunk and leg function

After a whirlwind three years full of tragedy and triumphs it would be natural to look back, but Kinghorn can only look forward.

"You do go through that period where you think, what if? - what if I hadn't done that or gone there? But that would kill you," she said.

"There were people in the hospital like that and it was killing them.

"I did have a day when I started my sport that I thought, what if? What would I be doing now if it hadn't happened?

"I wouldn't be doing half of what I'm doing now and would probably have a really boring life, so I've come to think of it that I'm pretty glad it happened.

"I like to tell myself that I used up all my steps before the accident - I would never sit down and was always running around everywhere.

"Now I just have to spend the rest of my life using up my pushes - It's the way I was meant to be."