Noah Lyles set an American record

Noah Lyles is still the best in the world.

Lyles, the reigning 200-meter world champion who only won a bronze medal at last year’s Olympics, won his second straight world title Thursday night in Eugene, Ore. Lyles won with a time of 19.31, the third fastest time. A stacked field that included the sport’s rising star Erion Knighton, who is just 18 years old and probably won’t stick around much longer. Lyles put a significant gap between him and the talented field, winning by nearly half a second, and he said he didn’t realize Knighton had finished third, not second, until they were on the podium.

“That’s how big the gap was,” Lyles said with a smile.

For weeks, Lyles said he welcomed Knighton’s push, saying it was a long time coming. Knighton pushed, but in the end could do no more than that. Knighton, who returned, finished third in 19.80 seconds, three hundredths behind Kenny Bednarek, to complete the American sweep.

Lyles, known as a slow starter, blew up around the turn. He said the quick turnaround came because Knighton and Bednarek “put the fear of God into it.”

“It was really the beginning of my life,” Lyle said.

The only question looming was whether he would be able to overtake Usain Bolt’s world record. He missed it, but broke Michael Johnson’s American record by a hundredth of a second.

Lyles threw his arms wide as he crossed the finish line, then turned to the board to check his time. It was originally said that he equaled Johnson’s record. He knelt down on the track and placed his hands in prayer position. When he closed his eyes and turned his back, Tar 19.31 changed. When Lyles saw the right time, he jumped in the air and dropped his single.

“I finally got what I’ve been dreaming about for years,” he said.

The clash between Lyle and Knighton in the 200 was the most anticipated of the world championships. He contrasted American sprinting’s present with its future, though Knighton has been very adamant this spring that his time is now.

For most of the year, Knighton was getting closer and closer to Lyles in matches.

At last year’s U.S. Olympic Trials, Lyles and Knighton were separated by 0.10 seconds. Lyles was first and Knighton was third.

At the Tokyo Games a month later, Knighton was 0.19 seconds behind. He finished fourth, one place behind Lyles.

Last month, at the US National Championship meet, Knighton finished just 0.02 seconds behind Lyles. They were the first and second.

But that race came a month after Knighton ran the 200 in 19.49 seconds at the LSU Invitational to break the U20 world record. Lyles was not in that race.

“He backed up his talk. Lyles took off and didn’t look back,” Jonathan Terry, one of Knighton’s coaches, said in a telephone interview from Tampa, Florida. “I’m happy, my boy got on the podium.”

Lyles and Knighton are friendly. Both are based in Florida. At 25, Lyles is seven years older, but when he’s in a good mood, which he certainly has been lately, he cracks jokes and keeps the camera on track. She wears her emotions on her bib and shared her story of struggles with mental health.

Knighton, on the other hand, is all business, on and off the track. He is a man of few words. He speaks softly and lets his running do the talking, showcasing his speed and only his speed. For Knighton, the track is not a place for games. This is a workplace. He hasn’t been running at an elite level long enough to understand the brutal roller coaster his pursuit entails. There were no downs, only ups.

“It feels good, it’s my first medal,” Knighton said. He was reserved when speaking to reporters after the race and did not show the excitement some might have expected from someone who had just become the youngest medalist in world championships history. “I just had to have time to think about what I just did,” he said.

Lyles, who was the favorite to win the gold medal in the 200 at the Tokyo Olympics, struggled last year and during the pandemic. Earlier this week, he chalked up his newfound understanding that he rules because he’s a performer who thrives off crowds, something he hasn’t done in nearly two years.

“I hit people,” he shouted after finishing the track.

This crowd was there for him last night, and they were there for Knighton. With Bednarek, the Olympic silver medalist also in the field, there was talk of another American, just like in the 100 on Saturday night.

And just like last weekend, the Americans lived up to the hype.

Jere Longman and Chris Rim Contributed to the report.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.