MARIA Lyle is a curious case – at 14 years old and on her major international debut, there have been few more resounding favourites at the IPC Athletics European Championships.
But the Scottish teenager insists her staggering achievements to date had not played on her mind after clinching T35 100m gold on the second day of the event in Swansea.
Lyle burst onto the international scene in Dubai six months ago, setting a world record over 200m at the IPC Grand Prix and, with more records tumbling since, she finally has the major medal to match.
Her time of 14.92 seconds was just over two-tenths off another world best – set by her – yet with the 200m up next today, Lyle is only concerned with topping the podium once more.
“I’m really pleased, I’ve been working really hard towards this and I’m just really glad the hard work has paid off,” said Lyle, victorious in the 100m final by 1.59.
“I don’t think about the pressure, I just block it and think about what I need to do to complete the race. It’s really good though, isn’t it? The crowd were amazing and got behind me, they made me feel confident and raring to go.
“It’s been really important for my parents, we’ve been working towards this for a couple of years. It’s been a big team effort – getting my dinner, taking me to training, emotional support.
“It’s been really good and I’m just so glad I’ve done it.”
After four golds were garnered on day one, three followed on day two with Mickey Bushell and Erin McBride following Lyle with success in their own respective T53 and T13 100m finals.
Four silvers were also contributed – Sophie Hahn in the T38 100m final, in which Olivia Breen chipped in with bronze, and Kyron Duke in the F41 javelin, Isaac Towers in the T34 800m and Paul Blake in the T36 400m.
Jade Jones did enough in a sprint finish to win T54 5000m bronze adding to the 1500m medal of the same colour from the Commonwealth Games and Ben Rowlings and Stephen Osborne followed suit in the T34 800m and T51 100m.
Meanwhile, Lyle’s fellow Scot Libby Clegg became the latest Commonwealth champion to have their participation in Swansea placed under a fitness cloud on day two.
Clegg was adored by the crowd at Hampden Park as she powered her way to gold at the Commonwealth Games in the T12 100m before turning her attentions to the Europeans.
However, the double gold medallist in the 100m and 200m at the last Europeans in the Netherlands in 2012 was unable to defend her crown in the former, pulling out of the final with a viral infection.
Clegg, who won a second Paralympic silver at London 2012, arrived in Swansea without full fitness after being struck down by illness – and was evidently not at her best in Tuesday’s heats. The 24-year-old scorched to Commonwealths gold in a world-leading time of 12.20 seconds but qualified for the final at the Europeans in Swansea as a fastest loser, clocking 12.49.
Her appearance for the remainder of the Europeans in Swansea is now in doubt – Clegg is scheduled to run in today’s 200m.
And it is another unfortunate note for what has otherwise been a stunning first two days for the British team in Swansea after six-time Paralympic champion David Weir’s withdrawal. Weir pulled out on the eve of the Championships through injury himself – although that did hand Clegg’s guide runner Mikail Huggins the opportunity to captain the British team.
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