A WORLD and European champion has revealed she has fallen in love with athletics all over again and thanked her mum.

Maria Lyle returned from the Fazza International Championships in Dubai recently with two gold medals.

However, it was just last year that she broke down in tears during her “darkest moment” before a major competition.

The teenager has lived with diplegic cerebral palsy in her legs almost all her life.

The 19-year-old told the Courier that her mum Susan had been with her throughout her journey, which has seen her represent Great Britain in the Paralympics and Scotland in the Commonwealth Games.

Her mum is a PE teacher at Dunbar Primary School and taught Maria.

Keen for Maria to be involved as much as her peers, but with little experience of teaching pupils with a disability, Susan looked for ways to deliver lessons which allowed Maria to flourish.

Maria said: “When I was younger, I struggled quite a lot. Things didn’t come quite as naturally for me as they did for my peers and often I ended up feeling a bit rubbish about myself.

“Things drastically changed, however, after one PE lesson. We had to complete the multi-stage fitness test (bleep test).

“As someone who fell over constantly and ended up with cut knees 90 per cent of the time, you could say I wasn’t that keen to join the lesson.

“To everyone’s surprise, I was the last one left in the test. That was the first time I’d ever felt such a sense of achievement. From that moment, running would become a big part of my life.”

Those short runs started to build Maria’s strength.

She became European champion in 2014 and within the next four years Paralympic, World and Commonwealth medals followed.

But despite all her success, Maria couldn’t find the same love for her sport as she had during those early runs with her mum. The teenager became overwhelmed with worry about competing and her concerns impacted her life away from the track.

After suffering in silence for years, Maria finally opened up to her mum, who convinced her to seek professional help. She was later diagnosed with having anxiety.

Maria, who works at the Scottish Parliament as a committee assistant, said: “My mum would give up lots of her time, she would lead my sessions and drive me all over the country so I could compete. She would even take time off work to watch me in competitions. Because of this I would get worried if I didn’t run well.

“I’d feel guilty about wasting her time. Disappointing my mum wasn’t the only thing I was anxious about. I was worried about my competitors and factors I couldn’t control.

“Before the 2018 European Championships, I revealed something to my mum that I had never spoken about before. I broke down and cried for hours expressing how rubbish I felt about myself in both my running and personal life.

“Running had completely taken over and there was nothing positive.

“In my darkest moment, my mum was there for me.

“She was the one who listened for hours. She was the one who hugged me. From that day, my mum and my immediate family have supported me. They have made me realise that there is more to life than running.”

Susan said that no medal ceremony could compare to seeing her daughter enjoying running again. She said: “My proudest moment is not Maria winning medals on the world stage, it is probably Maria competing in Glasgow last weekend at the 2019 National Indoor Championships.

“For the first time in years, I saw Maria stand on the start line feeling relaxed and running through the finish line with a smile on her face.

“Along with the support from us as a family and her coach, Jamie Bowie, Maria has turned herself around and is back on track in all areas of her life.”