JUST a few years ago she was wearing splints to help her leg muscles. Today, she stands as a double European champion runner after blowing the competition away.
Maria Lyle, from Dunbar, is the latest athletics golden girl and is still only 14.
But the cerebral palsy sufferer is taking her incredible success at the Paralympic European Championships in her stride, while enjoying a few extra days off school.
Today her PE teacher mum Susan – who spotted her potential in primary four – told her pride at watching her daughter grow into a champion.
Her mum, who has been watching the races in Swansea with Maria’s dad Raymond, said she has always had the drive to win, even at school sports days.
She said: “She was so pleased [with her gold medal] because she’s been waiting on this for a long time.
“She’s ranked number one, but this time she has something for show for her efforts – a proper title, European champion. Being 14 and being able to stand on the podium and lap it all up, it’s great.”
Maria, who clocked times of 14.92 in the 100m and 31.05 in the 200m, already holds a world record for the 100m and now has her sights set on the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
The youngster was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which causes muscle weakness and can affect walking, balance and motor skills, at the age of two. But despite the condition, Maria’s talent shone through during a “beep” shuttle run test in PE, impressing her mum. From then on, the youngster accompanied her parents on their frequent runs and joined Dunbar Running Club.
The former Dunbar Primary pupil, who wore splints on both her legs until she was in primary six, competed across the country with support from Scottish Disability Sport and British Athletics. But she had to wait until she was 14 before she could compete internationally.
The Lyles are a naturally sporty household, but Maria’s abilities had the extra benefit of helping her muscles.
“Running is good – she is building up muscles, it makes her legs stronger and it improves her core muscles,” said Mrs Lyle.
The championships in Swansea are the first time Maria has had to stay in athlete’s accommodation rather than with her parents.
She has been enjoying sharing a room with fellow Paralympic runner Erin McBride, who also won a gold medal in her classification.
Maria’s proud sister Anna, 13, has been following this week’s races with interest while staying with friends in Dunbar, keeping Maria’s schoolmates posted as they returned for the new term yesterday.
And despite her incredible achievements – and her ambitions for Rio – Maria is modest and grounded.
“She’s only 14, she’s still in school, so has to deal with training and school. It’s just about getting the balance right, trying to organise and plan everything,” her mum said.
“It’s a complete positive, the potential is phenomenal, and the opportunities that she gets. You look at the challenges that Maria’s got and she’s out there enjoying it.”