Kayleigh Haggo is a superstar on the sporting track where her talent, training and determination has gathered medals and records.
But Kayleigh, who was born with cerebral palsy affecting the movement in all four limbs, balance and speech, says there is another secret to her success, her mum Sandra.
She always encouraged her daughter to live an independent life and to follow her dreams.
After being given the Inspiration in Sport gong at the Scottish Women in Sport Awards on Thursday, Kayleigh, from Maybole in Ayrshire, said: “My mum never treated me any differently because I had cerebral palsy.”
“She treated me the same as my younger brother Cameron, didn’t wrap me up in cotton wool and encouraged me to do things for myself. It was tough love but I really appreciate it now because I am so independent and strong.”
Para-athlete Kayleigh is a champion in race running – where athletes balance on a three-wheeled bike with no pedals and then propel themselves forward with their legs and steer with their hands.
Last year she became the first 100m world champion in the sport, scooping gold at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai in November, when the event made its debut.
And she recently claimed a world record over 200m, her fourth such title given she was already the fastest on the planet over 100m, 400m and 800m.
Kayleigh discovered her love of sport when she was 12. “There was a ‘come and try’ event to encourage us to look at new skills we could learn,” she recalled.
“I got on the race runner – and I didn’t want to get back off!
“I just love the freedom of it. It gives me so much confidence and independence. It is just great to have something I can do myself.”
Kayleigh has spent lockdown training hard. A rally round the local community made sure she could continue working on her sport at home with weights, a bench press and rowing machine.
At the beginning of the year, the 21-year-old, who studied sports coaching and development at university, was training for the European Championships in Poland, due to be in June.
The pandemic has spelled an end of that until next year. But while disappointed, Kayleigh says it is giving her extra training time to get faster and stronger for 2021.
“It gives me a whole extra year to get ready for the Europeans,” she said. “At the beginning of lockdown I was training every day but now I’m working full time so I’m down to just six sessions a week.” Kayleigh was recently promoted to South Ayrshire’s Active Schools Disability Sports Coordinator, which involves visiting schools across the region and inspiring youngsters.
She also sets up sports clubs across the region, encouraging people to try new sporting activities.
Maureen McGonigle, founder and chief executive of Scottish Women in Sport, said: “This was an exceptionally tough category due to the quality of the nominations and the panel felt that Kayleigh just edged this.
Kayleigh’s drive and passion to improve her own performance and overcome her own personal challenges, is matched only by her passion to help others; a wonderful quality.”