GORDON teenager Samantha Kinghorn had been wheelchair racing for just two months when she came second to the British junior champion in last month’s London Marathon. Now she wants to compete in the Paralympics.
The 16-year-old is the inspiration behind a show garden at Gardening Scotland next month aimed at raising money to help her sporting endeavours.
The Earlston High School pupil was only 14 when she broke her back as she helped her parents, Neil and Elaine, clear snow at Middlethird Farm, near Gordon. She was airlifted to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow where doctors told her she would never walk again. She spent six months in hospital, finally returning home in a wheelchair last May.
Before her accident, Samantha had been a keen sportswoman, enjoying hockey, ballet and gymnastics, but rather than mourn her loss of mobility, the teenager returned home determined to make her mark on a new sport.
“I accepted my condition immediately. I didn’t cry, I just thought, ‘Okay, I’ve got to deal with it’. There were people at hospital more severely injured. I could still move my hands. I thought I was lucky, “ she told us.
“While I was in the Southern General, my physiotherapist recognised I was quite athletic, so she took me to Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, the national centre for disability sports, and I got to try out everything,” said Samantha.
She knew instantly that wheelchair racing was for her and now she trains six nights a week while still studying for her Highers.
It was during that trip also, revealed Elaine, that Samantha’s physio, driving past the Paralympics venue – then a building site, told her: “I want to see you there. You have got it in you to do it.”
Samantha is looking forward to seeing the garden being created in her honour for the June 1-3 show in Edinburgh.
“I’m very excited about it. I’ve seen the drawings. It will be nice to see it all when it’s finished. It goes from my childhood through to some of the races I’m going to do. I’m glad my brother Christopher, an army chef, will be able to see it – he leaves a week later for a tour of Afghanistan.”
When Paul Bradford, of landscaping firm Border Aggregates, heard the young woman’s story, he was determined to do something to support her. So he set about creating the show garden which he hopes will raise cash to fulfil Samantha’s sporting ambitions.
Paul said: “To come back from such a devastating injury so quickly is quite remarkable and I really wanted to do something to help her. The garden will be called ‘Sam’s Paralympic Journey’ and will feature a wheelchair, part of a running track and Olympic symbols.”
Elaine, who is a specialist carer for people with back injuries, said: “I think the garden is a super idea and if it inspires other kids or adults with a disability to take up another form of sport, that would be brilliant. It is a good way for Samantha to get some funding as well because the Borders doesn’t have money to give out to athletes. ”
She and stockman Neil are grateful for the help Paul and others have given their daughter.
Elaine’s brother Richard Allan and his wife Ashley held an X Factor show in Kelso Rugby Club which raised £750. And there have been other donations, including from the Rooney Foundation, all amounting to just over £4,000.
But Samantha’s racing wheelchair alone cost £4,000 and the carbon fibre wheels are £1,000 a go, let alone the £50-a-time she needs to replace a tyre.
Said her proud mum: “It’s nice people care enough to give her money to see her go forward and do what she wants to do. That money helped this year and next year we are going to have to try and get more sponsorship. “
Her own specialist skills have not been needed.
Elaine said: “Samantha is fiercely independent and was right from the start. She said, ‘You are my mother, not my carer’. I don’t have very much to do at all, she does everything, she really is amazing.
“She’s a devil for speed, she loves coming down the hill fast – she definitely has a daredevil in her. If she puts in the commitment she could go far (in her sport) – and just now that’s what she wants to do.”