JUST another hectic week in the remarkable young life of Sammi Kinghorn. 

It all started with the 21-year-old para sports athlete from the Borders being hand picked to receive a Sky Sports Scholarship which will help out with funding and mentorship as she pursues an athletics career which has already made her a double world champion. 

It then gathered pace on Thursday night, when she became the first para athlete to be voted the overall winner of the Team Scotland sports person of the year award, the big reveal earning a rousing ovation from an illustrious packed ballroom of Scotland’s sporting great and good.

But biggest red letter day is yet to come. The pretty frock will be well and truly ditched in favour of work clothes tomorrow for the moment in Kinghorn’s training schedule she has been dreading all month long – her first ever 26-mile training outing, as this phenomenal competitor, whose world championship golds in London over 100m and 200m in the T53 class, girds herself for her official marathon debut at next month’s Chicago Marathon.

All going well, with her favoured events banished from the schedule, she will leave there inspired enough to take her place on the marathon start line in a Scotland vest in the Commonwealth Games marathon in the Gold Coast. 

“My coach Ian Mirfin plans out what I do for a month ahead,” Kinghorn told Herald Sport this week, “And I have been seeing this 26-miler on my schedule since the start of the month and it has just been haunting me. I know I can do it; it will be fine, my dad will cycle alongside me, it will be fine and we will have a chat but I am still a bit nervous about it.” 

For those who don’t know the story – and there are fewer each day – Sammi has been paralysed below the waist for the last seven years, after a freak accident where she broke her back and found herself crushed in her farmer dad Neil’s forklift as he tried to clear snow.

Yet some three years later, here she was, competing at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and here – another four down the line – she is again, already achieving sporting greatness with that emotional double triumph at the London Stadium. David Weir, the six-time Olympic champion, is one of the few athletes capable of coping with such a vast range of distances but Kinghorn certainly embraces a challenge. She is fresh from only her second ever half marathon at the Great North Run, where she finished second, some eight minutes faster than her only previous attempt.

“The marathon will simply be for the Commonwealth Games,” she said.

“I will be back to normal distances for the worlds and Tokyo tick round. It is a big challenge. I can do it – I am not saying I can do it well. It is certainly different to seeing the finishing line and going round in circles all the time. 

“The training is a bit more variable so I am enjoying that, and I have always done quite a lot of endurance work,” Kinghorn added. “I have done plenty of distances that are upwards of 12 or 13 miles. It is just about putting altogether at a major championships. I guess it is more like cycling than it is athletics.”

Kinghorn is on the cusp of major recognition in Scotland and weeks like this don’t hurt. She was even granted an audience with the Queen after her world championship exploits. “I have met the Queen, that was quite cool,” said Kinghorn. “She was very nice, just like your granny. 

“I still don’t see myself on the level of a world champion, I get embarrassed when people say that,” she said. “But when I am back home in the Borders I go out my front door and along the road when I train. Down in Gordon, everybody knows me, and they flash their lights at me and wave. But I don’t think they would take too kindly to it in Glasgow, so I stick to cycle paths. I still find that strange when I get recognised in public,” she added. 

“I go and introduce myself to people and they say ‘yeah we know who you are’. I went to Edinburgh Zoo the other day with my nephew and people come up to me like that, I find that so strange. It is great that people in para sport are getting recognition. 

“I enjoy telling my story, and making people understand that things happen in life, and it just about how you come out the other end. But people saying I am an inspiration kind of freaks me out a little bit.”
A key part of Kinghorn’s rise to prominence has been picking the right chair – in her sake a bespoke pink number which is as bespoke and aerodynamically efficient as one of Chris Froome’s time trial bikes or a Lewis Hamilton Mercedes. Incidentally, regardless of the move to the longer distances, the chair is likely to remain, albeit with a different grade of tyres and some alterations to the steering.

“My main emotion at the worlds was just shock really, that was the biggest thing,” she said. “Obviously in Rio I was a fifth, fifth and a sixth, I was disqualified in one of my races. I was, and still am, basically the new kid on the block. Then in my first race this year I broke the world record, and I was like, ‘Right, okay, something new is happening ...’Wheelchair racing is very technical and I got a new chair this winter and it all worked pretty quickly which was pretty cool. 

“I choose the chair myself – I design it, get it all planned out, then send it to a company and they make it. It is all about cutting out as much weight as possible and making it as aerodynamic as possible. There is a lot of time spent making sure it is exactly the way I want it to be. 

“You never really like a new chair for the first while. Because it is not a comfortable position, you are crushed in really tight. But it is like when you put on a new pair of shoes they are really tight and rubbing against you then gradually you wear them in. That chair has been a good move and I know there are still other technical things that I could change and that is really exciting. It is a huge part of para sport now.

“I will keep the same chair for the marathon, probably just put different tyres on and tighten up the steering, silly little things like that. Sometimes people get a smaller one for the sprints, and a bigger one for the longer distances. But I am the middle one and that is the way I like it.”

Sky Sports Scholarship Programme inspires the next generation of athletes, like Sammi, to achieve through financial, mentoring, personal and sporting support. http://www.skysports.com/scholarships