LET it never be said that Sammi Kinghorn is afraid of putting in the hard yards whenever her country comes calling.
A natural sprinter, the wheelchair racer often finds herself competing outside of her comfort zone whenever the Commonwealth Games come around as short-distance events aren’t represented.
At the Gold Coast Games in 2016, that meant Kinghorn – who is paralysed below the waist – signing up for a gruelling marathon but thankfully for the 26-year-old, the change in race at next month’s games in Birmingham won’t quite be so dramatic.
“A few weeks ago I got a personal best in the 1500m so I’m coming into good form,” she said. “It’s not my normal event, I’m a sprinter. So a step up is a bit different but apparently I’ll do anything for Team Scotland!
“When my events came out I basically had the choice between 1500m or marathon. I did the marathon in the Gold Coast but not this time! I’ll wait a few years before I’m back on the marathon train. I loved the experience but it took me a long time to get back to being able to sprint 100m fast.
“I’ve got Paris in two years’ time and I would like to be on the podium there so I can throw myself into the 1500m in Birmingham and hopefully that will help my 800m. I’m really looking forward to competing for Scotland and in a stadium that’s going to be full of people.”
It is not only the length of the track that will change for Kinghorn but some of her competitors will also leave her at a slight disadvantage. The classifications used by Games organisers mean that racers of varying levels of physical condition will be competing directly against each other – something that she already has first-and experience of from her time at the Gold Coast.
“It’s the same in Birmingham,” she explained. “The 53 is a mixed classification. I don’t have any core stability so when I’m accelerating it’s just my arms and I will be competing against 54s who have full core. When they get tired they can throw a bit of torso into it.
“You will notice when the 53 gets tired I will bob my head a lot for extra momentum. There’s not a lot of difference nowadays. We have almost levelled it out in terms of times.
“I used to lose it when I looked down at my speed and saw I was going 19-20mph in a six-foot long racing chair and you would think ‘I don’t really want to fall out at this speed!’
“I’d hold myself back but the team I’m training with now are telling me to get in as tight as I can and it doesn’t matter if I hit the back of the chair. They are really pushing me to learn the tactics and that’s helped me get the PB.”
With three golds from the 2014 European Championships and another two from the Worlds in 2017 – not to mention a silver medal gained in the Tokyo Paralympics last summer – Kinghorn just needs to podium in Birmingham to complete a rather enviable medal haul.
“I always used to aim just to get to the final,” she says. “But now I back myself more. You have to. You have to set yourself targets and goals. If you set your bar low then you’ll only finish there. You have to believe.
“After Rio and Gold Coast I was always in awe of everyone. I never really backed myself. So belief is massive. I’m putting myself on the start line and I’m racing for a medal.
“I came fifth in Glasgow and fourth in Gold Coast so surely this time it’s only fair I get a medal!”
Team Scotland are not the only organisation to recognise Kinghorn’s sporting achievements of late. Earlier this year, she was ‘massively surprised’ when she received a fancy-looking letter in the post and discovered she was to become the recipient of a MBE.
“I had to keep it quiet for so long,” she grinned. “That was the hardest bit. I found out in March and my mum and dad are the worst at keeping tight lipped. I told them if this comes out then I will let everyone know it must have been yous!
“Being in the birthday honours list is really special. I’m a royalist. I’d love to be a princess!
“You get the choice of Holyrood or Buckingham Palace. And I think you get two or three people to go with you at Holyrood but just one at Buckingham Palace. But I feel like I might never get this opportunity again so I will go for Buckingham.
“It would be incredible if it was the Queen. She is doing so well and my great granny is the same age and is lying in bed eating biscuits and drinking tea - I’m sure that’s what the Queen would rather be doing so I understand if she isn’t there when I get my medal.
“I’ll probably stumble over my words. I met her once for the Commonwealth Games down in Westminster and the photos are the worst I’ve ever had taken. I must have got over-excited!
“Meeting the Queen will be more nerve-wracking than competing. Definitely.
“You have to remember to call her Your Majesty and bow. I don’t think you are allowed to ask her questions back either. But as a Scottish person we are so used to asking how people are.”