SAMMI KINGHORN may have been forced to put her dream of a 2020 Paralympic medal on hold, but luckily for her, she realised another dream that took her mind off the carnage on the sports calendar that the pandemic was wreaking.
Kinghorn moved back to her parents’ farm instead of competing at the top of her sport in Tokyo this year and concentrated all of her attention on caring for her beloved lamb, Ruby, whom her father took care of during the lockout.
Night feedings and the hunt for the country’s best sheep colostrum may not have been what she had expected for her summer, but for one of Britain’s best wheelchair sprinters, it was a welcome change.
“When I was younger, I wanted to raise a pet lamb, but my dad always said I didn’t have the commitment,” she says.
On Good Friday, Ruby was born, but her mother couldn’t feed her, so on Easter Sunday, my dad put a bow around her neck and gave her to me. I think it’s good that he thinks I’m old enough now to take care of a living thing.
“I enjoyed it. I got up to feed her in the middle of the night, and she took me on walks and all.
Pet lambs are typically smaller than the others, but Ruby is completely huge – I made sure she was so well looked after.
She knows that I am her mother, and even now, when I go home and she hears my voice, she knows right away that I am back. It was good to have the diversion.
Kinghorn might have been on her way to her second Paralympics a few months ago if 2020 had not gone the way it did. She debuted in Rio as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, but she became a multiple world and European champion in the T53 class in the four years that followed, as well as a world record holder, so she would have travelled to Tokyo with a first Paralympic medal in mind.
But as disappointing as it was for her to postpone the Games, she soon realised that waiting to play in Tokyo for another year was maybe the lesser of two evils.
“When the Games were postponed, it was very disappointing, particularly because I was feeling good. I was in Australia earlier this year for a month and trained there especially well, so everything was nice and I came home really looking forward to the races,’ she said.
But as things went, either Tokyo had to be postponed or the Games had to be held in totally closed stadiums, which would have been much worse, and I would have hated it even more.
There’s a chance I’m going to win my first Paralympic medal, and it would be horrible for my family not to be in the stadium, so I’d rather wait than have an empty stadium match.
“I’m so glad I’m still young because an extra year doesn’t make much difference to me and actually I’m more than happy to have extra time to get faster and stronger.”
Kinghorn made good use of her lockdown time; building a gym in the garage of her parents and miles of empty roads in the Borders ensured that her training was minimally disrupted.
For Kinghorn, a recent move south to Cheshire brought things to another level. Her current training partner, five-time Paralympic champion and T34 sprinter Hannah Cockroft, means that during training sessions, the Scot is required to fire on all cylinders.
Kinghorn now has her eyes set on breaking the elusive 16-second barrier for that distance, something that has never been done in her class, having come out of the lockout in excellent form – she was just a touch off her personal best in the 100m in September – and Kinghorn knows the world record is within reach.
“It’s amazing to train with Hannah – it’s really nice to train with another girl and we’re good friends, too,” she said.
We’re racing at the same distances and have the same targets, so we’re pushing each other. “She’s got a lot of experience, it’s good to have her there, and I think I’m helping her, too, so it’s just awesome,” says Kinghorn.
I know that for the 100m, I can break 16 seconds, it’s just a question of having the right race. In training, I broke 16 seconds and that gives me the confidence that I know I can do it. I just have to believe that I can do it in competition.
Kinghorn doesn’t yet know when her next competition will be, with the track and field schedule still in chaos. Whatever happens, her main priority for next year is