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Report22 Jul 2022

Lyles runs national record to lead US 200m sweep in Oregon


Noah Lyles wins the 200m in a US record at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (Β© Getty Images)

Noah Lyles is back.

After a painful year in which he coped with mental health struggles and finished a disappointed third in the Tokyo Olympics, Lyles retained the world 200m title in breathtaking fashion on Thursday (21), running the third-fastest time in history and leading another US sprint medals sweep at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.

Lyles broke from the blocks and controlled the race from the start, destroying the field as he came around the turn and accelerated down the straight to become the first back-to-back men’s world 200m champion since Usain Bolt won four titles in a row from 2009 to 2015.

The clock first showed the winning time as a championship record of 19.32, which would have tied Michael Johnson’s US record from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Lyles turned and walked over to the clock and pointed at it, willing a faster time.

Seconds later, the clock flashed the amended official time: 19.31. That put Lyles ahead of Johnson and alone in third on the all-time list behind Bolt’s world record of 19.19 and Yohan Blake’s 19.26.

“I saw the time popped up and I tied Michael Johnson’s record,” Lyles said. “I was like, ‘You’re really going to do that?’ Then the number changed from 2 to 1, and my whole mood changed.

“I was true in form for a world record, but I am OK with the American record,” he added. “I literally had nothing left after I crossed the finish line.”

With Olympic silver medallist Kenneth Bednarek finishing second in 19.77 and 19-year-old phenom Erriyon Knighton taking bronze in 19.80, it was the first US sweep of the 200m since 2005 when Justin Gatlin, Wallace Spearmon Jr. and John Capel Jr. finished 1-2-3.

And it came only five days after US sprinters went gold-silver-bronze in the men’s 100m. Thursday’s race marked the first time the US, or any country, has swept the podium in both the 100m and 200m at any World Championships (and it has only happened once at the Olympics, in 1904).

And more history was made, as Knighton became the youngest ever individual sprint medallist at the World Championships.

Once the time of 19.31 and the US sweep were confirmed, Lyles tore down his singlet, let out a roar and slapped the track four times.

‘’Everybody dreams about this day,” Lyles said in an on-track interview. “Today is my day. I knew it was coming.’’

Then, turning to the fans in the Hayward Field stands, he shouted: “I got a crowd! I got a crowd!”

That wasn’t the case a year ago in Tokyo, where there were no fans in the stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic and Lyles broke down while discussing his mental health battles after finishing third, only his second ever defeat in a 200m final.

Now, having won his first world title in Doha in 2019, he joins Johnson and Calvin Smith as two-time winners of the 200m.

“It's an immaculate feeling to be on the podium with two fellow Americans,” said Lyles, who turned 25 on Monday. “I remember when I first got on the professional scene, I said we are going to come out as Americans and kill it. When I remember in Doha, it was just me. I felt kind of lonely. I've got two people run just as fast. They are close behind me. We are a dominant force in America now.”

Joseph Fahnbulleh of Liberia was fourth in 19.84, with Alexander Ogando of the Dominican Republic fifth in 19.93.

On this night, the vintage Noah Lyles turned up. This was the consummate showman and performer, a man who had rediscovered his joy for the sport, a charismatic athlete who showed the world why he has been tipped as the next Bolt.

“I thought I was changing last year,” he said. “It scared me. I was fearful and I wanted to get the spark I had back. I did, I enjoyed and I am still putting pressure on myself. When I start doing that, I have more fun and that's what I keep reminding myself. There's no pressure. There's pure fun out here.”

The final had been billed as a showdown between Lyles and the wunderkind Knighton, who ran a world-leading 19.49 in April. The rivalry was stoked at the US Championships in Eugene last month, where Lyles ran down Knighton in the final 30 metres and stuck out his tongue and pointed across at him as he crossed the line.

This time, Lyles had nowhere to look, as his rivals were so far behind.  

Lyles started in lane six, with Knighton in lane three and Bednarek in four. The race was almost over before it started, as Lyles seized control by the curve and gained further separation from the rest of the field down the straight.

“I felt I got the best start I could possibly ask for,” Lyles said. “The race was basically set up for me. I was given lane six, an outside lane. To be honest, every step was purposeful, going out with intent to win. I've given my all.”

Lyles said Bednarek deserved huge credit for coming back from a broken toe this year to earn a second consecutive silver medal on the world stage.

“Just to be able to make it to the finals and now I have a silver medal again,” Bednarek said. “I just try to be better. This is just amazing experience and I want to come stronger next year.”

For Knighton, it was his first major medal after finishing fourth in Tokyo.

“It feels good – to be so young and be on the podium,” he said. “There's more to come. I gave it my all. From the blocks, I had a slight mess-up and that kind of threw my race off, but I got a medal. I can't complain. I am only 18 and have some time to get in the weight room. Noah Lyles told me I will be one of the greatest in the sport. It feels good coming from him.”

Lyles should know.

All three US medallists could be back on the track on Friday, this time as part of the US 4x100m team.

 “This is by far the most fun I've ever had at a track meet,” Lyles said, “and we still have the 4x100m to do.”

When Lyles is having fun, look out.

Steve Wilson for World Athletics


πŸ₯‡ Noah Lyles πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ USA 19.31 WL
πŸ₯ˆ Kenneth Bednarek πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ USA 19.77 SB
πŸ₯‰ Erriyon Knighton πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ USA 19.80
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