Tokyo Paralympic Games: Maria Lyle dreams of gold to complete streak of major championship titles
Good days, bad days, Maria Lyle has been through them all. Teenage prodigies have a bad habit of burning intensely and then extinguishing themselves. But Dunbar’s dynamo on the sprint scene has reached the ripe old age of 21 with his sanity intact and a career still on track. It took some effort, but it’s worth it, she says.
Lyle enters the fray at the Tokyo Paralympics tonight on a mission to complete his streak of major championship titles. The 100-meter T35 is the first of two gambits this week, an opportunity to complete the silver and the two bronzes she won in Rio in 2016.
Having won her first European crown in Swansea at the age of 14, a careful management process was put in place to guide her through the growing pains and the parallel ebb and flow of her cerebral palsy. Spicing up the mix, she admits, were the mental health issues she had to contend with.
“I wasn’t really in a good mental position when I was 16,” she says. “This is something I didn’t really tackle until 2018, when I was diagnosed with anxiety. And I put processes in place to help me deal with what made me mentally stronger
“I still have good days and bad like everyone else, I guess. But it made a big difference for me as an athlete.
The same goes for better understanding how to manage your condition, while also finding ways to improve acceleration and strength.
But she said, “I guess I understand my body now and how to handle things and appreciate neural flows more so that I can incorporate them into training. There are some ways that I am stronger now because of this, but the most important is that my body settles after puberty. I was only 16 in Rio while now I’m 21.
No relay option being offered this time, it will be the 100-200 double that will hold Lyle’s attention. A pair of gold medals at the European Championships in June in Poland came just short of his personal best.
“I gained a lot of self-confidence from the way I was able to start running again in this kind of environment,” she says.
However, opposition in Japan remains unknown. The best Chinese are only now coming out from behind the red curtain to reveal themselves. However, Lyle and his trainer, world medalist Jamie Bowie, performed simulations at the base in East Lothian for anything thrown at him.
“The world has been so different with the pandemic, so the Paralympic Games are not really unusual in that regard. For me, it was just about preparing as normally as possible to be ready to compete with whatever comes along. ”
But she is aiming high.
“I would love both gold medals. Of course, it is a beautiful dream. But it’s gonna be tough. Coming home with any medal would be great.