SCOTLAND was calling Maria Lyle back home. After an unhappy stint at Oaklands College in St Albans as part of their athletics programme, this prodigious 18-year-old para sprinter is happy to be back home, combining her running with being what she calls ‘your average Scottish lassie with dodgy legs’. If that means trying to prepare for this April’s Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in the knowledge that her Higher exams are just around the corner, then so be it. At least she has a smile on her face.

“Being down south didn’t work out,” said Lyle. “I’m glad I went but now I know what’s right for me. I was purely down there to train but I needed more of a balance. So going back into sixth year at school has been good for me. I thought ‘I need more to my life than just athletics - I want a balance and a break because it drives you crazy’. You miss out on stuff that other teenagers experience.

“Being back, I’m a lot happier and hopefully that will translate into better performances,” she added. “I was quite homesick actually. I didn’t realise how tough it would be, leaving your family for months.

“I’ve got exams straight after Commonwealths. It will be a bit tough having to revise out there. I’m not sure how much I’ll get done. But it’s too good an opportunity not to go.”

For Lyle, who suffers from diplegic cerebral palsy – put down to her mother Susan suffering from shingles whilst pregnant - growth spurts and growing pains are just one part of the equation.

Just 14 when the last Commonwealth Games came round in Glasgow in 2014, Lyle had to settle for a watching brief but August of that year, just after those games came to a close, was still when she made her breakthrough, bringing back 100m and 200m gold in the T35 events from the IPC European Athletics Championships in Swansea.

Fast forward four years and she has a total of eight Paralympic and world medals in her collection, including a gold in the 4x100m relay from the World Championships in Doha in 2015. While it would be nice to add a Commonwealth medal to that collection this April, it is worth remembering that her competition will include home favourite, Isis Holt of Australia. Still only 16, that medal collection would look even better had Holt not beaten her home in almost every one of those individual events.

“I’m just focusing on myself,” said Lyle. “I don’t care about the others. I’ll be out to do my best performance and if I run to the best of my ability, that’s all I care about.

“The crowd won’t bother me. I had that in London. Its about focusing on yourself - not worrying about other people or getting bothered about it.”

As impressive as her results have been to date, there might just be more to come from Lyle, especially as she approaches skeletal and muscular maturity.

“It is hard, especially growing,” she said. “With CP, your muscles don’t grow at the same rate so your muscles and your technique and your running drop as you have a growth spurt.

“It’s just about being patient,” she added. “My coach now is very understanding and we’ve worked through methods to work through it and use my CP to the best of my ability. It’s tough but you don’t grow forever. I’ll be fine eventually.

“With para athletes, people forget you’re still developing because you’re integrated with adults quite early on. But I do have a lot of growth and development ahead and hopefully when I’m all grown up, I’ll be quite good.

“I was watching at home during Glasgow 2014. I was 14 and I didn’t manage to get tickets but I was watching on TV all the time. I was training for the Europeans at that time but it’s good for the public to have opportunities to watch athletics. It does inspire you.

“We had good performances from Scotland all around. Libby wining the gold was good. Having Usain Bolt making the relay appearance. And it will be good in the Gold Coast to see all these athletes performing well again.

“I’ve had so many positive experiences and opportunities through athletics - I wouldn’t be going to Australia if not for athletics. You meet so many new people and get to go to amazing places. Even just having CP, it does help being active. It helps your muscle tone and generally has a positive in your life. I’m lucky. Not everyone does have events in the Gold Coast. But I can’t wait to go.”