MARIA Lyle paid tribute to her coach Jamie Bowie last night for helping her deal with the demons and bring home double gold from the para-world championships in Dubai. The 19-year-old from Dunbar was a popular winner of the FPSG para-athlete of the year award at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow in recognition of her triumphs over both 100m and 200m in the T35 category out in the Gulf. 

Not everything has been plain sailing for a teenager who required medication for anxiety not so long ago but the help of her family and former 400m runner Bowie has Lyle feeling top of the world again. Serving an apprenticeship with the public petitions committee at the Scottish Parliament was another welcome distraction on her path to glory this year.

“Jamie has had that experience of being a world class athlete so he understands the types of pressures you’re under and what it’s like to actually prepare for the world championships and to be on the start line,” said Lyle. “I think sometimes it’s hard to speak to somebody who hasn’t experienced that before. For someone to understand how you feel, that’s something special and not a lot of people have got that so I’m very lucky in that respect.

“I’ve been struggling with my mental health for a few years now and hadn’t really properly done anything about it until last year,” she added. “So I went on medication and went to a councillor. And with the support of my family and Jamie I’ve been able to get back on track and actually not only enjoy my running but enjoy life again.

“I like to joke about a bit and there’s a lot of banter in between [with Bowie]. It’s good having that balance of having someone who’s understanding and you can have a joke with but it is also ‘right, we’re doing this’.

“Going through counselling and coping with taking medication was quite a busy first few months of the season but I had the support of Jamie and my family – and it also helped to do stuff myself outside my running to make myself more rounded. I think that’s a healthy balance - if you have a bad running session that’s not the only thing on your mind.”