We spoke to Maria Lyle: Double Paralympic medal winner and Napier student

Maria won two bronze medals in Tokyo in the 100m and 200m T35 sprints

After a summer of sporting success in Tokyo, Paralympics GB finished the games in second place on a staggering 124 medals.

Two of these were won by Maria Lyle, a Paralympic sprinter who is in her third year of a degree in sports coaching at Edinburgh Napier.

She won two bronze medals in the T35 100m and 200m sprints. They were also Team GB’s first two athletics medals of the Tokyo games.

Aged 21, this was Maria’s second Paralympic games and she is currently the reigning European Champion in both of her events.

If being a Paralympic medallist wasn’t hard work enough, Maria has also made a TikTok account that’s had several videos go viral.

Now she’s back home, The Edinburgh Tab chatted to Maria about her success, what it’s like being a Paralympian and student at the same time, as well as her advice for disabled young people wanting to get into sport.

How did it feel crossing that finishing line knowing you’d won a medal? Especially GB’s first athletics medals

Firstly, to be selected and have the opportunity to compete at the Paralympics felt like an achievement to me and to come away with a medal was a bonus.

I was really happy with my 100m final as I kept to my race plan and concentrated on my own lane. It was special to be the first GB athlete to compete in the stadium and win a medal.

What was it like training and preparing during a pandemic?

The pandemic has had an impact on everyone’s lives so I was fortunate I could still do some sort of training. I would do my session by myself on a grass field, hills and roads while filming my runs for my coach to give me feedback. I had limited gym equipment so all my sessions were adapted so we can try and get the most out of them.

It made me and my coach get creative and also realise the importance of communication, especially in a sport that is very technical.

How did you feel when the Paralympics was postponed from Summer 2020 to now?

I expected that the Paralympics were going to be postponed so it wasn’t too much of a shock. I reminded that all athletes are affected by this and not just me. The whole pandemic has reinforced that there is more to life than just elite sport.

Has Napier been supportive? And how hard is it to balance training alongside your degree?

Napier has been very supportive with my sporting career with their dual career programme (a UK government-funded scheme that helps elite athletes that are in education) . It allows me to train and compete without stressing about deadlines and exams. I’ve been allowed to sit exams later, have longer to complete coursework and get to do lectures in my own time so I can compete and train.

You’ve had a few TikToks go viral, what made you start the account?

I was approached by TikTok to create content while out at the Paralympics to showcase what it was like due to spectators not being able to go and watch. I never really used TikTok before so I didn’t really know what would do well and how the algorithm works.

I still don’t really understand it but it’s funny to see that my TikToks have made national newspapers because me and my room mate Polly were bored! I wouldn’t say I was TikTok famous quite yet- just probably got lucky in a few videos. Others don’t seem to quite bang like my two big ones that have gone properly viral.

@marialyle_Disability problems @pollymaton #disabilityawareness #cerebralpalsy #amputeelife

♬ son original – Gygy 💋🎀🦋

What advice would you give to a disabled young person wanting to get into sport?

Sport is a great way not only to manage my disability and mobility but to feel good about myself – both physically and mentally. When I started running it was the first time I felt included with my peers and that got me hooked into continuing it.

Look around to see what sports and clubs are in your area that you fancy. If you are wanting to do something disability exclusive have a look at the Scottish Disability Sport website.

However, just because you’re disabled, doesn’t mean you can’t join a group/class that is predominantly attended by able bodied people.

If you want to keep up with Maria Lyle’s achievements, you can follow her on Tik Tok @marialyle_

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