IN a corner of the cafe at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Samantha Kinghorn and Jo Butterfield are laughing as they reminisce over old stories and past adventures.

Kinghorn flicks though photographs on her mobile phone, a kaleidoscope of memories whizzing past. There's her and Butterfield side-by-side as they celebrate success on the global athletics stage; grinning mischievously while larking around in fancy dress; baking a birthday cake for a friend.

Yet, their bond runs far deeper than compatriots and close team-mates. It is little over five years since Kinghorn and Butterfield first met in a hospital ward.

In December 2010, Kinghorn was crushed while helping her father clear snow on the family farm in the Berwickshire village of Gordon. Her back was broken and she was left paralysed from the waist down.

Butterfield underwent surgery for a tumour on her spine in January 2011. The former Army civil servant, originally from Doncaster but who has lived in Glasgow for the past two decades, was told there was a 0.01 per cent chance that the operation could end in paralysis. The odds didn't play in her favour. Butterfield awoke to find she was paralysed from chest down.

During the five months Kinghorn and Butterfield spent together at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, formerly the Southern General, in Glasgow they forged an unbreakable bond. They have since gone on to enjoy a stratospheric rise in their respective sporting disciplines.

Wheelchair racer Kinghorn, 20, is a triple European champion in the T53 100m, 400m and 800m and a world bronze medallist in the 200m.

A fortnight ago she set four new European records at the Daniela Jutzeler Memorial and IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland, breaking the T53 200m and 400m times held by 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson since 2004 and 2003 respectively.

She improved on her 800m time at the Indy International and Fast Cow Invitational in Indianapolis last weekend posting a blistering 1:52.62.

Butterfield, 37, won European gold in the F51 club throw in 2014. Last October, she became world champion in that same discipline and also took bronze in the F52 discus. She will aim to defend her title at the 2016 IPC Athletics European Championships in Grosseto, Italy, on Wednesday.

After that? Rio is calling … But first Kinghorn and Butterfield share their remarkable story to date.

What are your earliest memories of each other?

Samantha Kinghorn: "I had already been in hospital for about a month when Jo arrived. I remember her coming down to physio in the most horrendous chair I had seen in my life."

Jo Butterfield: "I came into the gym with this chair and everyone thought I was someone who had been injured ages ago and that was me in my normal day chair. But it was actually just one that the hospital staff had found in a cupboard. It was all they had. I didn't care – I thought it was amazing."

How soon did you click as friends?

Kinghorn: "In rehab everyone spends a lot of time together. You go to the gym and eat meals at the same time. You get to know everyone fairly quickly."

Butterfield: "Although it took a few weeks before we got really close."

Kinghorn: "Once Jo discovered the food was horrendous we teamed up to get takeouts a lot …"

Butterfield: "We were on first-name terms with everyone in the sandwich shop. We would order breakfast to arrive for when we finished our first physio session of the day. Sammi and I were quite cheery. Not everyone [on the ward] was. We bonded over that."

Kinghorn: "We learned how to use calipers at the same time. That was difficult. To keep standing upright and not fall over meant concentrating hard the whole time."

Butterfield: "Concentration is the big thing with calipers. I remember falling like a piece of timber once. Sammi and I had a motto. When everyone would say: 'you can't', we would say 'not yet …'"


What were the most difficult aspects of that period?

Kinghorn: "Missing out on things my friends were doing back home was probably the toughest. Things like parties or going out to the cinema. I missed life on the farm as well, particularly the lambing season. I remember telling the physio: 'I'm going home to lamb' and them not being sure about me being ready. I was determined. I managed to get home for the first week of lambing."

Butterfield: "It's those little things that you suddenly can't do. I lived in a top floor tenement flat which meant I couldn't get home for weekends. That was frustrating. The lack of personal space was hard too. We used to love when it got to 9pm, everyone went home and we could chill out watching films together. Usually scary ones."

Kinghorn: "Do you remember Piranha 3D? I wasn't old enough to watch it because it was an 18 and the physio wanted to call my mum to check it was OK. We managed to convince him it was fine, but afterwards I thought: 'I wish I hadn't watched that …'"

Butterfield: "On another occasion we decided to get out of our chairs and roll about the floor."

Kinghorn: "We were talking about how rolling over in bed at night was something we used to take for granted. Instead we needed to wake-up, sit-up and turn our legs."

Butterfield: "We looked at each other and asked: 'Can you roll over?' We decided to get out of our chairs right there and then to see if we could. We were lying there on the floor, shouting to each other: 'Can you roll? I can't. Nah …'

"Then the security guard arrived. He pointed and said: 'There's a camera up there.' They had been watching us thinking: 'What on earth are they doing?' That was a bit embarrassing."

Jo, was your role being Sammi's "hospital mum"?

Butterfield: "Definitely."

Kinghorn: "I remember when we went down to Stoke Mandeville [for the Inter Spinal Unit Games] there were boys coming up to us and Jo would say firmly: 'She's 14!'"

Butterfield: "I was a cool mum, though?"

Kinghorn: "You were a cool and trendy mum. Very protective."

Butterfield: "I used to give her advice too. All the boys wanted Sammi. She would ask me: 'What you think about this one?' Although she never listened to me."

Kinghorn: "They would come to visit and afterwards Jo would be like: 'Nope! You're mad …'"

Butterfield: "It worked both ways and Sammi was there for me too. We could open up to each other in a way that we couldn't with other people."

Kinghorn: "We had a counsellor in hospital who asked me: 'Have you cried yet?' When I said no, he said: 'You need to cry because otherwise when you get older it will all hit you at once and you'll be depressed.'

"I wanted to say: 'Where's your wheelchair? How did you feel?' I know he has the degree and everything, but he didn't understand what I was feeling and that everyone is different. That's why it was so great to have Jo there with me and going through it at the same time.

"There were people who wouldn't face the fact they couldn't walk. They wouldn't get up and go to the gym in the morning. It would have been easy to take that same outlook, but Jo and I had our own way of doing things which was to always keep going."

Butterfield: "We definitely encouraged each other. There was a 'hill' – a sloping corridor – inside the unit and we liked to challenge ourselves on that."

Kinghorn: "We would see how many pushes in our chairs it would take to get to the top. When we first started it felt like hundreds – at least 50 pushes to get up this 'hill'. By the end, we could do it in seven or eight. We used to do that every night."


When did athletics become an ambition?

Butterfield: "We didn't talk about athletics specifically, but sport was a massive thing for us."

Kinghorn: "Every Wednesday we did different sports like table tennis and boccia …"

Butterfield: "Swingball …"

Kinghorn: "We were super competitive. I remember getting beaten at boccia and being gutted. It was a choice to go along and take part – you didn't have to. But we always did."

Butterfield: "We did skiing and curling too."

Kinghorn: "We were up for anything."

What was it like preparing to leave hospital?

Butterfield: "Sammi left a month before me so after that it definitely wasn't as much fun. But we had a good last day together. There was a 5k round Strathclyde Park that we took part in."

Kinghorn: "There was a record for the course and I wanted to beat it."

Butterfield: "And she did! As we drove there together the same song, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, came on the radio three times. The first line is: "We'll do it all/Everything/On our own." That's our song. As we pulled into the car park on Sammi's last day it started playing. That felt like a good sign."

How did you keep in touch afterwards?

Butterfield: "Sammi often came and stayed with me. After she left hospital and I was in my last month of rehab that is when it all got a bit serious. The biggest challenge was that I had to move house from my top floor tenement flat. I had no home at that stage.

"I remember the day I got my new car – that was brilliant. I traded in my old one for an automatic and found a guy on the internet to fit the hand controls."

Kinghorn: "I thought he was going to give us a full introduction on push-pull technique and how to drive the car, but he just handed over the keys and said: 'There you go …' Jo and I sat there for ages trying to figure out how everything worked. Then we went for a McDonald's breakfast."

Butterfield: "Getting petrol was an interesting experience. We were both in the front of the car with the chairs in the back. Someone on the ward had said: 'Just beep your horn at the garage and they will come out.' So that's what we did. But obviously Sammi is sitting there in the passenger seat and they must have been thinking: 'Why are you not getting out?'"

Kinghorn: "Basically it looked like I was extremely lazy. We got so many funny looks. Whenever we went somewhere I would get in first, Jo would put my chair in the boot. Then she would go round, get in and pass her chair over to sit in the back. When we got to the other end, we did it all in reverse with Jo getting her chair out first, then going round to get mine.

"I would see people staring at me thinking: 'Why she's not getting out to help? What a horrible person …' There was another time Jo ordered boxes for packing up her house and they ended up being a lot bigger than we had thought. I remember saying: 'Jo, how are we going to get two wheelchairs, two people and six huge boxes into your little car?'

"We could barely get them out the door never mind into the car. I had to sit in the boot."

How does it feel to be considered a role model?

Butterfield: "I find it strange. I had never aspired to be a Paralympian: it wasn't something on my radar. To be honest, I never knew what I wanted to do. But I think I always knew I wanted to be more than ordinary. This has given me a chance to do that which is quite special.

"It is not something I would ever have planned or even asked for, but the opportunities it has brought are pretty cool. If other people can look at that and be inspired or encouraged or whatever word you want to use, then that is a good thing."

Kinghorn: "I don't really see myself as a role model. I do enjoy talking to kids in school. When I first had my accident I had no idea I was going to be in a chair – I thought I was going to be stuck in bed forever. That was simply because I knew nothing about life with a disability."


What is your proudest moment to date?

Butterfield [turns to Kinghorn]: "I'm proud of you and what you've achieved. I'm proud of me too. I'm proud of us. When I think of all the things we were told we couldn't do and would never be able to do, I feel so proud."

Kinghorn: "In sport? My three gold medals at Europeans."

Butterfield: "The world championships last year were amazing, but Europeans will always be special because it was our first one. It was fantastic."

Kinghorn: "My dad cried when I won."

How often does your mind drift to thoughts of Rio?

Butterfield: "It's impossible not to as most days there are conversations and emails."

Kinghorn: "You try to keep focused and take it one stage at a time, but the Paralympics is the big dream and it's hard not to think about that."

What is the ultimate ambition?

Kinghorn: "To be the best in the world."

Butterfield: "I want to be as good as I know I can be. There is always going to be another record to be broken. I want to be at the top. But I always want to enjoy it too. My goal is to go to Rio and win a gold medal – that is definitely the target – but I want to do it with a smile on my face."