SAMMI KINGHORN may have been forced to put her dream of winning a Paralympic medal on hold in 2020 but fortunately for her, another dream was realised to take her mind off the carnage the pandemic exerted on the sporting calendar.

Instead of performing at the top of her sport in Tokyo this year, Kinghorn moved back to her parents’ farm and focused much of her energy on nurturing her pet lamb, Ruby, which her dad charged her to look after over lockdown.

Night feeds and searching for the best sheep colostrum in the country may not have been how she envisaged her summer panning out, but it was a welcome diversion for one of Britain’s top wheelchair sprinters.

“When I was younger, I wanted to raise a pet lamb but my dad always said I didn’t have the commitment,” she says.

“Ruby was born on Good Friday but her mum couldn’t feed her so on Easter Sunday, my dad tied a bow round her neck and gave her to me. I guess it’s a good thing he thinks I’m old enough to look after a living thing now.

“I loved it. I’d get up in the middle of the night to feed her and she’d come walks with me and everything.

“Normally pet lambs are smaller than the others but Ruby is absolutely huge – I was making sure she was so well looked after.

“She knows I’m her mum and even now, when I go home and she hears my voice, she knows straight away I’m back. It was lovely to have that distraction.”

Had 2020 not panned out the way it has, Kinghorn would have been heading to her second Paralympics a few months ago. She made her debut in Rio as a fresh-faced 20-year-old but in the intervening four years, has become a multiple world and European champion in the T53 class, as well as a world record holder and so would have been heading to Tokyo with a first Paralympic medal well within her sights.

But as disappointing as the postponement of the Games was for her, she was quick to realise that waiting another year to line-up in Tokyo was perhaps the lesser of two evils.

“It was pretty gutting when the Games were postponed, especially because I was feeling good. I’d been to Australia for a month at the start of the year and trained particularly well so things were great and I came home really excited to race,” she says.

“But the way things went, Tokyo was either going to have to be postponed or else have the Games take place in completely closed stadiums which would have been even worse, I’d have hated that even more.

“There’s a chance I could win my first Paralympic medal so for my family to not be in the stadium would be terrible so actually, I would rather wait than the Games go ahead with empty stadiums.

“I’m so glad I’m still young because an extra year doesn’t make a huge difference to me and actually, I’m more than happy to have extra time to get faster and stronger.”

Kinghorn used her time in lockdown well; setting up a gym in her parents’ garage and having miles of empty roads in the Borders meant her training was only minimally disrupted.

A recent move down south to Cheshire has taken things to another level for Kinghorn with her new training partner five-time Paralympic champion, T34 sprinter Hannah Cockroft ensuring the Scot is forced to fire on all cylinders during sessions.

With Kinghorn emerging from lockdown in excellent shape – she was a whisker off her personal best in a 100m outing in September – she now has her sights set on breaking the coveted 16 second barrier for the distance, something that has never been achieved in her classification. And Kinghorn knows the world record is within reach.

“It’s incredible training with Hannah - it’s really nice to train with another girl and we’re good friends too.

“We do the same distances and we’re aiming for the same thing so we push each other hard. She has so much experience so that’s been good to have her there and similarly, I think I help her too so it’s just been great,” Kinghorn says.

“I know I can break 16 seconds for the 100m, it’s just about getting the right race. I’ve broken 16 seconds in training and that gives me the comfort that I know I can do it, I just need to believe I can do it in competition.”

With the athletics calendar still in turmoil, Kinghorn remains uncertain as to when her next competitive outing will be. Whatever happens though, her major focus for next year is ensuring she claims her first piece of Paralympic silverware.

She is well aware of the bigger picture but experience has taught her that taking things day by day is a far more helpful approach heading into the new year.

“It’s hard to not let Tokyo slip into your head, especially near the end of a hard session because that’s the bit that might make the difference when you get there,” she says.

“I put so much pressure on myself that no one can ever put more than that on me but I’m learning how to deal with the nerves.

“I’ll just set myself mini-goals for the year and that’ll help.”