DUNBAR sprinter Maria Lyle and Wallyford powerlifter Micky Yule feel on top of the world following their brilliant bronze medals at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Setbacks including a positive Covid-19 test, personal pressure, retirement temptations and isolation could not stop the duo from stepping onto the podium.

It was the spirit of Japan and the “kindness of Japanese volunteers and officials” that pushed Maria to overcome her nerves of performing without her family in Tokyo when she ran in the women’s T35 100m and 200m, achieving season’s best times.

The 21-year-old, who has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, was “over the moon” to win Great Britain’s first athletics medal of the competition in the T35 100m sprint with a time of 14.18 seconds on Friday morning, which secured her a bronze medal.

She went on to claim a second bronze by clocking 30.24 seconds in the T35 200m sprint on Sunday.

Maria, who returned home on Monday, told the Courier: “I am so happy to come away with two medals and I was so excited to be in Tokyo.

“I told myself before I went that what will be will be and I focused on myself – I couldn’t control anyone else’s performance, only my own.

“I was pleased with my performance in the 100m but I wasn’t happy with my 200m run – I was really nervous beforehand but I can’t change anything now.”

The Edinburgh Napier University sports coaching student said it was strange racing in an empty stadium and without her biggest fan, mum Susan, there to cheer her on.

She said: “It was the weirdest experience but I had a nice time.

“The volunteers made up for the crowds by standing with posters, waving and cheering; they brought the atmosphere and it was comforting that all us athletes were in the same boat.

“I would love to return to Japan in the future – the kindness of Japanese volunteers and officials made the games for me.”

Maria set out to enjoy her second Paralympics, after the pressure she felt as a 16-year-old at the Rio Paralympics in 2016 took its toll.

She said: “I took Rio too seriously and it really affected my mental health. I forgot that not everyone gets to the Paralympics.

“I achieved three medals as a teenager at those Games and I still didn’t think it was good enough.

“The pain I have endured has made me realise there is more to life than sport and I really appreciate that. I have learnt to not neglect nor be harsh on myself.

“I told myself if Tokyo didn’t go right I would be upset but I wouldn’t let it affect me badly.”

Maria had been forced to adapt her training routine due to the ever-changing coronavirus pandemic restrictions, which “threw a spanner in the works”.

“It was difficult to correct technique when you can’t be in person together; my coach and I relied on technology, videos and we got creative with it,” she said.

“I was happy to put together two good races – it was really nice to secure these medals and share them with my coach, Jamie Bowie, after the last 18 months of hard work we have put in through Covid.”

Meanwhile, 42-year-old powerlifter Micky almost missed the Paralympic Games after testing positive for Covid-19 at the end of 2020 – and only secured his place at the Games on his final lift in the qualifiers.

And at Tokyo, he said he “played a game of poker” to outfox many of his competitors in the men’s -72kg powerlifting, after lifting 182kg to claim a bronze medal on Saturday.

The ex-serviceman, who lost both legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while on army duty in Afghanistan in 2010, declared his medalling position “tactically perfect”.

Micky told the Courier: “It was a crazy day. I went into the competition expecting to finish fifth, but my coach and I decided to change our tactics ahead of my performance.

“The refereeing was the strictest I have seen and people were getting in trouble for lifting too heavy –those far stronger than me.

“There was a lot of ego lifting and for me it turned out to be a game of tactics more than strength.”

At the Rio Paralympics in 2016, Micky missed out on a medal position, finishing fifth – he similarly missed out on medals in the last two Commonwealth Games, which he said was “through my own fault”.

The former Loretto Primary School pupil said he was in a different place mentally this time.

“It was much like the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games [in 2018] – I had to sit and watch my competitors and hope they didn’t lift,” he said.

“When the last guy failed, I couldn’t believe it but in powerlifting you can appeal lifts so I held my breath. I saw the last guy’s coaches in the corner of my eye and I knew there was no overturning it.

“It is a cliché but I went there to do my best and lift as heavy as I could and if a medal was to come it would.”

Micky vowed that if he had failed to lift the “comfortable” weight of 182kg, he would have thrown in the towel for good.

He said: “182kg is a light weight: if I missed on that I would have retired on the spot.

“I told myself: ‘Don’t mess this up.’ I had no excuse, I had to get my head together and medal.

“If I hadn’t, I’d have gone out into the media room and said that was my final performance ever.”

Both Maria and Micky plan to celebrate their sporting success with their families now they have returned home.

Maria will enjoy several weeks off from training before she “takes every day as it comes” ahead of upcoming championships and the 2024 Paris Paralympics.

Micky will see his mum in Whitecraig and dad in Wallyford when he visits East Lothian in October.

He will take some time off before he begins his training schedule for the Commonwealth Games – his last ever competitive performance – in 10 months’ time.

He said: “I will leave no stone unturned, it will be my last lift ever and I will make it count – I will come home with a gold medal.”