Noah LYLES biography
The biggest challenge for the Olympic Games over the next decade will be finding a figurehead capable of shining as brightly as Usain Bolt. While it is unlikely that anyone will be able to completely match the charisma and star quality of the once-in-a-generation Jamaican – there is a sprinter who might just come close.
Noah Lyles, a 22 year-old, from Gainesville, Florida, is already running faster than Bolt did at the same age. He is dominating the 200m, where he has a fastest time of 19.50 seconds, and looks capable of becoming a 100m great too – with a fastest time of 9.86 seconds. In 2017, he set a new world record for the indoor 300m.
Lyles’ 19.50 – set in 2019 – is, incredibly, the eighth fastest time ever run. Nobody has covered half the track as quickly since Bolt and Yohan Blake at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Only Bolt, Blake and Michael Johnson have run 200m faster, ever. And he did it in a slight headwind, too.
Lyles has been on Olympic fan radars for six years, since he won the 200m gold medal for USA at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. He then went on to confirm his potential in the Diamond League over the next few years.
At the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, however, he really stepped up – taking gold at the 200m and as part of the 4x100m team. He will go to Tokyo 2020 as hot favourite in his best distance, the 200m.
This will be his first Olympic Games. Lyles almost qualified for Rio 2016, despite being just 17: he won his semi final at the US Olympic trials, but his 20.09 second run in the final wasn’t enough to see off some talented senior athletes. But he has continued his sharp improvement – skipping college athletics to sign professionally for adidas, and is now threatening to become an athletics great at 22.
An extrovert, songwriter and funny guy, Lyles is also brimming with the kind of personality that makes him a marketing dream.
“Yes, it’s nice to be fast, but what could take you over the top?” he said recently. “Usain Bolt, household name. Transcended the sport. Michael Phelps, swimmer, transcended the sport. What is going to take you from being just popular in track to being popular in the world? By being different or by being you. You can’t get to that point by being somebody else.” Tokyo 2020 might just be his moment.