Wheelchair race ace Samantha Kinghorn reflects on her Tokyo Paralympic triumph

Gordon’s Sammi Kinghorn, looking back on a year to remember, says her silver medal triumph in Tokyo was very special but not her most cherished memory of the 2020 Paralympics.

By Ralph Mellon
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 3:16 pm
Samantha Kinghorn celebrates after winning silver for Team GB at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo (picture by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Samantha Kinghorn celebrates after winning silver for Team GB at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo (picture by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

The wheelchair race ace puts her bronze triumph at the top of that list as it was her first-ever Paralympics medal.

The former double T53 world champion’s joy at her dual haul was one of the most tmemorable moments of Japan’s Paralympic Games, postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic still shrouding the sporting calendar in uncertainty for many in 2022.

Kinghorn, 26 next week, declared at the time that her chief aim was to go for gold at the Paris Paralympics in 2024 as she’s confident she’s good enough to take the top prize.

Another main objective is to run the T53 100m in under 16 seconds – and the former Earlston High School pupil feels she is getting closer to that too.

Her successes in the Japanese capital came on successive days as she finished third in the T53 100m and then grabbed silver 24 hours later in the T53 400m.

The Borderer is now hard at work training and practising after a break following the end of the Paralympics, rounding off her season.

“I am really proud of myself for what I achieved out there,” she said.

“It's difficult because every country was going in with very different restrictions and had a very different year and half or so, obviously all impacted on by Covid.

“Some nations coped well with it and some didn’t cope with it well at all.

“I think it was difficult for every nation to go in. I was as fit as I possibly could have been, but, with all the restrictions we had in place, such as no tracks for 10 months or so, that was really very difficult, but it was a really fun games.

“The team really got together more because there was no one in the stands. That was the toughest part, really – winning my first medals without friends and family there – but I know I can do that and hopefully I’ll go and do it again in Paris. I really do hope I can.”

With the world championships in doubt, next year’s principal event could be the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, at which Kinghorn might compete for Scotland in the 1500m.

“It’s not really my event but I’ll give it a bash,” she said.

Kinghorn is still the youngest contender on the starting line in major finals and the fact age is on her side brings her hope for the future, she added. She’ll be 28 by the time she’s in the French capital for 2024’s Para lympics, all being well, and hopes she’ll be more mature, stronger, fitter, smarter and faster.

Before then, there’s a chance in May and June of visiting Switzerland for grand prix events and to race against faster rivals in Illinois, USA, preceded by some domestic competitions.

“I’ll still be trying to get some faster times on the board for the following years but we just don’t know what it will be like in terms of majors,” said Kinghorn, now based at Nantwich in Cheshire.

“Hopefully, we’ll get some warm-weather training at some point next year while we’ll be keeping an eye on all the restrictions and anything else.

She added: “Switzerland is the best track in the world for us to race on. I really enjoy it and it’s always a track where myself and everyone else tend to gets good times. There is fierce competition, which is exciting and fun.”

Kinghorn’s memory of that first Paralympic medal has done great things for her self-belief, even after all she has accomplished on the track. “I think, for anyone, it’s the belief that you can – and, certainly, for me, I have – done everything,” she said. “After winning that first one, you think ‘yes, you can. You do deserve to be here and you are one of the best’.

“That gave me the power to win the silver.

“You’ve done everything, you are here and you’re ready, so just keep pushing.”