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Samantha Kinghorn knows how to turn tragedy into triumph.
The 20-year-old Scottish woman, who was paralyzed in a forklift accident when she was a teen, is now heading to Rio de Janeiro, where she will represent the UK in the 2016 Paralympics Games.
Back Broken but Not Her Spirit
In November 2010, when she was only 14, Samantha climbed onto her father’s moving forklift while he was moving snow that had fallen off the roof of the family’s home near Kelso, Scotland, after a heavy winter storm.
Her father, hoisting a heavy bucket of snow, lowered the vehicle’s forks, unaware that his daughter was standing underneath. Samantha’s back was broken and she was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Five months in Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital, multiple surgeries, and endless therapy may have been enough to break the spirit of most people, but not Samantha.
She emerged from the experience determined to prove that she still had something to contribute to her country, training as a wheelchair racer six days a week in all seasons on the roads surrounding her family’s farm.
Nicknamed the “Border Bullet” by the UK media, Kinghorn will be representing the UK during the Paralympics as a champion wheelchair racer. The games will be held September 7 through 18 after the regular Olympics end, using many of the same athletic centers and sporting facilities.
Champion Wheelchair Racer
Samantha, whose friends call her “Sammi”, already holds the European record times for wheelchair racing in four separate events: The T53 100, 200, 400 and 800 meters.
Her first race was the 2012 London Mini Marathon, where she finished second. Since then , she has set the Scottish records in the 100m and 200m, and won the UK’s first gold medal in the T53 Women’s 400m, as well as gold medals in the 100m and 800m, in the 2014 IPC European Championships in Swansea.
Traveling to Rio to cheer her on will be her boyfriend, her best friend … and her father, Neil. In fact, her father has been among her biggest, and loudest fans. He even built a special treadmill in the family’s garage so she could train part-time at home even in bad weather.
Before the accident, Samantha rarely saw her father because he worked so much. But now he takes a lot of time off to help his daughter train as a champion wheelchair racer. In a way, the accident has brought father and daughter closer together.
Not every story about a forklift accident has to have an unhappy ending. In the case of Samantha Kinghorn, the unfortunate incident could transform tragedy into Olympic gold.