18th December 2014

Maria - You've Got To See Her

27 December 2014 

If you would have asked Maria Lyle at the start of 2014 her ambitions for the year, you could not have written the script any better.

In her first race after gaining international classification, the 14 year old broke the nine year old 200m world record at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai by over a second before claiming the 100m world record three months later.

Not content with just two world records, Lyle went even quicker over both sprint distances on the same day at the Bedford International in May before claiming double gold on her international debut at the IPC European Championships in Swansea.

Lyle said: “Just looking back, I’ve accomplished so much this year improving my running and getting stronger. I know I can do much better next year but Swansea was a great experience for me getting used to a big competition, so to win two gold medals I couldn’t quite believe it.

“I’ve come in at a really good time where Paralympic sport is growing and the people are getting to know it. There’s people coming to watch you and knowing more about it which is really exciting.”

Her dominant display in South Wales came a year after watching her GB & NI teammates on TV at the IPC World Championships in Lyon. Lyle was not eligible for selection due to her age, but took some valuable experience from one of the young stars that shone in the sprint events.

“I watched Lyon and it was great to see the team do so well. It made me think I need to give it my all in 2014 to make the team. It was really impressive what Sophie (Hahn) did winning two medals and I know how hard she worked to get to that position,” said Lyle, who was a part of this year’s British Athletics Futures Programme.

The Scottish teenager, who hails from the small town of Dunbar has big aspirations for the new year, and despite the added pressures of being a European champion, Lyle is determined to keep her feet on the floor and let the track do the talking.

“You kind of hear people saying stuff, but I just try and zone out and not listen to it really. I just have to concentrate on my race and training. It’s great to hear people saying that you’re going to do well, but it’s important not to get too carried away or stressed out about it.

“I knew I could beat the world records because I did that quite a lot the year before. It was a case of not thinking about it and concentrating on what you were meant to be doing and not getting too cocky. I would really like in 2015 to get into the lower 14 second mark. This year I ran under 15 seconds so that was a big achievement but I just need to be running those times on a consistent basis.”  

Lyle’s performances earned her a place on the World Class Performance Programme for 2014-2015 and with a busy few years at Dunbar Grammar School ahead, British Athletics’ Young Para Athlete of the Year believes this support will help her cement her place on future GB & NI teams.

“It was really good to get chosen for National Lottery funding as it’s really going to help me with my training and competitions. I know I have to perform now and do the best I can to stay on the programme.

“Managing my work and training has not been too bad, but I’m seeing the pressure more now because I’m picking my subjects for exams. You just have to be organised, doing your homework as soon as I get in and then doing the training.”  

Despite her success in 2014, the modest, unassuming  Lyle is keen to highlight that she is some distance from being regarded as one of the big names, but admits it’s a great experience to be involved with some of the names she used to watching on the big screen.

“I don’t see myself like that (as one of the bigger names). I’ve got a little while before I can see myself at that level. I saw Jonnie Peacock, Richard Whitehead, Hannah Cockroft and Aled Davies and it was really weird because I’d seen them on TV and you never expect to see them in real life. It’s so nice to feel part of the team and being in that environment.

With Doha hosting next year’s IPC World Championships in October, Lyle has set herself a big goal but believes that she has the capability of adding world medals to her repertoire.

“I’d firstly like to make it into the team but my big aim is to win double gold. I know it will be a big ask but I’m willing to accept that challenge.”  

You can follow Maria on her journey to Doha and beyond on Twitter here