Erriyon Knighton wins the 200m at the Gyulai István Memorial Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix 2022, Székesfehérvár
Saturday, 14 July 2001 – Usain Bolt competes in his first ever junior world event in Debrecen, at the athletics stadium named after István Gyulai. With the Jamaican relay team – being the third leg to get the baton – a confident performance in the morning heats secures their place in the final the next day, where he and his team finished 4th. It is still Saturday that he fails to make it from the semi-finals to the final in the 200m.
“Hungary? Are you kidding? I looked at the world map at home, scratching my head. It took me a long time to find Hungary. Debrecen seemed to be the most distant point in the world from Jamaica” – if for no other reason, it was worth the trip for Bolt, who was barely 15, because it was here that he first drank sparkling water.
When the greatest of all time made his debut in our country in a major world event, Erriyon Knighton was not even in consideration. But István Gyulai’s name is certainly a common point in the career of Usain Bolt and his own. Born on 29 January 2004, the child prodigy ran for the first time abroad at the Gyulai István Memorial last summer.
On 6 July 2021, he competed in the 200m in Székesfehérvár, after having run under 20 seconds for the first – and second – time in his life at the US Olympic qualifier. His 19.88 in the semi-finals broke Bolt’s U20 world record and his 19.84 in the final also earned him a chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Bolt achieved these times just a month and a half before his 21st birthday. Knighton reached that record at the age of 17 and a half, making him the youngest male athlete for Team USA at the Olympics since 1964.
He is regarded as Bolt’s successor not simply because of his results, but also because of his incredibly relaxed and effortless running technique, which clearly shows that he was born to win.
Before the Tokyo Olympics, Knighton had only one tune-up race: the Gyulai István Memorial, where he finished 3rd in 20.03. He showed his skills in Tokyo by winning both the heats and semi-finals. In the final, he was no match for three of his more experienced opponents, but losing to the trio of Andre De Grasse, Kenneth Bednarek and Noah Lyles is no disgrace for a junior. Especially when you consider that Bolt, who was the same age in 2004, was eliminated in the first round of the 200m at his first Olympics in Athens.
Knighton’s progress is amazing even compared to Bolt. At just 18, he has already reached the level where he is being talked about as the biggest challenger to Noah Lyles in an elite world championship. He immediately became the fourth fastest ever with his first half-lap run this year: running 19.49 seconds in the 200 in that time is anything but ordinary! Lyles won the final in 19.31, putting him back ahead of him on this list, but the young talent has nothing to be ashamed of.
Finally, based on the World Championships and what we have seen so far, his 2022 performance has consolidated somewhere between 19.65 and 19.80. This earned him a spectacular bronze medal in Eugene behind Lyles and Bednarek. The competition record at the Gyulai István Memorial was held by Christian Coleman from 2019 with 19.91 seconds. Until this year’s race’ Because Knighton beat that a few days after the WCH with a 19.88 run.
People often ask whether he wants to be the next Usain Bolt. The comparison is an honor, Knighton said, but, no, he doesn’t want to be the next Bolt. He wants to be the best version of himself. “I’m probably thinking about breaking the world record,” Knighton said a month ago.
We can hardly wait for him to take the next step in Budapest, in front of our eyes next summer! He could kick the door in 25 August 2023, if He beat Lyles and win his first major gold medal.