5 ways US sprinter Noah Lyles is transforming track and field

5 ways US sprinter Noah Lyles is transforming track and field

On Sunday, just moments before US 200m world champion Noah Lyles ran the third-fastest 200m time of his young career to claim victory at the London Diamond League, he played with the sold-out crowd of 65,000 at London Stadium on the back straightaway, emulating the famous Freddie Mercury “Ayy-Oh” from Live-Aid in 1985 to get people involved before his race began.

In a pre-race press conference, Lyles confidently told reporters that if he could get out fast, he was not going to lose. True to his word, Lyles exploded out of the blocks and blazed to a world-leading time of 19.47 seconds, marking the tenth-fastest time in history. His incredible performance broke Usain Bolt’s meeting record of 19.76 from 2008 and also surpassed Bolt for the most 200m races run in under 20 seconds, achieving this feat for the 35th time.

Noah Lyles London
Noah Lyles flaunts his 200m win at the London Diamond League. Photo: Kevin Morris

Since Bolt departed from track and field in 2017, interest in the sport, particularly sprinting, has experienced a decline, looking for a new identity. Bolt was a once-in-a-generation talent who always exuded charisma on and off the track. He captivated audiences with his pre-race antics and delivered mesmerizing world record times, showcasing his unparalleled speed. As Canadians, we may tend to rival US athletes (in general), but it’s hard not to root for Lyles, who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk and is undoubtedly making a positive impact on the sport of track and field.

Large personality

One thing Noah Lyles certainly doesn’t lack is confidence, and he isn’t afraid to let the world know. Shortly after his jaw-dropping world-leading performance at the London Diamond League, he took to Twitter and boldly declared, “19.47 seconds and that was just the warning shot.” It’s clear he’s setting the stage for the 2023 World Athletics Championships, and fans are eagerly awaiting what he has in store. Lyles’s shameless self-assurance resonates with fans as he fearlessly sets audacious goals and then proceeds to back up his talk with lightning-fast times on the track, keeping the excitement and conversation alive in athletics.

At the 2022 World Athletics Championships, Lyles ran a record-setting 19.31 seconds to win gold, break the American record and clock the third-fastest 200m time in history behind Jamaica’s Bolt and Yohan Blake. Lyles ripped off his singlet in excitement, celebration and disbelief, surpassing Michael Johnson’s long-standing record of 19.32 seconds on home soil.

Respect for competition

Despite his confidence, Lyles is also a fan of the sport and holds a lot of respect for other athletes and sprinters. During the pre-race press conference with British sprinter Zharnel Hughes at the London Diamond League, Hughes was asked whether he would target the British 200m record. When Hughes expressed uncertainty, Lyles, sitting alongside him, inquired about the mark and then referenced Hughes’ remarkable 100m victory at the recent British National Championships, saying, “Why are you being so modest? You just won in the rain, man, in the hurricane. We can get that (record).”

After Lyles won the 200m event, he immediately went over to Hughes’ lane, and together they anxiously watched the results come in. The moment Lyles saw the time of 19.73 seconds, confirming Hughes’ new national record, he exclaimed, “You freaking did it.”

Look good, race good

Most athletes show up to a track and field meet in a tracksuit or athleisure wear, but Lyles has brought NBA style to the sport of track and field. At the 2023 New Balance Grand Prix, the Adidas athlete showed up in a full leather prada suit, looking like a secret agent on a mission to tear up the track. Some of his other fits for him this season have been ice cold, showing up to the 2023 US Indoor Championships in a forest green tuxedo and at US Outdoors in a custom leather jacket with the medals of his last three championship medals painted on the back.

I am a believer in the look-good, feel-good mentality, and Lyles is taking this to a different level.

reaching new fans

Lyles has been outspoken about his fandom of anime and soccer. He has even brought out the Super Saiyan Dragon Ball Z celebration when he wins races, which he most recently did after his win at the London Diamond League. Lyles’ ability to connect track and field with pop culture and help the sport reach different demographics is similar to the way Bolt did with his trademarked Lightning Bolt celebration.

Noah Lyles celebration
Noah Lyles Super Saiyan Dragon Ball Z celebration at London Diamond League. Photo: Kevin Morris

The 26-year-old has also been vocal about his new hobby of rooting for Manchester United in the Premier League (PL). He was even invited on the NBC Sports Premier League live broadcast to reveal the team he cheered for. Although, it could be a coincidence that Lyles roots for the same team as Bolt, which happens to be the most-followed PL team on Facebook and Instagram.

Eagerness to face the best

Lyles has shown no hesitation in facing competition. Throughout this season, he has raced 13 times and often stepped outside his comfort zone to work on his block start and speed over 100m. Notably, it has been 11 years since an Olympic and world champion have competed against each other in the men’s 100m. However, Lyles, the reigning world 200m champion, embraces the challenge of his competition and has already faced top sprinters like Erriyon KnightonU20 200m world record holder Letsile Tebogo and reigning 100m world champion Fred Kerley this season.

In addition to these matchups, Lyles has also expressed interest in a rematch with Canada’s Andre DeGrasse. De Grasse bested Lyles for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where Lyles took bronze. However, at the 2022 World Athletics Championships, De Grasse chose to focus on the 4x100m relay, leaving the door open for a future 200m showdown when both athletes are in top form.

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