Noah Lyles Wins 200-Meter In Style to Achieve ‘Sprint Double’ at Budapest Worlds
by Brian Pinelli
Noah Lyles accomplished ‘the double’ and a ‘three-peat’ in one fell swoop.
Five days after winning the men’s 100-meter at the World Athletics Championships, Lyles did what no sprinter has since Usain Bolt in 2015, cruising to a 200-meter victory in 19.52 seconds to complete the ‘sprint double’ in Budapest, Hungary.
“What a world championships,” Lyles said, asked about the monumental accomplishment. “The double is done, it’s done. I can talk about there’s not pressure, but of course there is pressure no matter what.
“I remember waking up today – it’s different from the 100. The 100 is fun, but the 200 is personal for me. This is where I learned how to race and have gone against my biggest competition. This is my third one,” he said, referring to his three consecutive world championship 200m victory.
“After what happened at the Tokyo (Olympics), I said I don’t believe in deserving the win,” Lyles said, referring to losing the 200m race in Japan and settling for bronze. “Today, I had to take the win. Just because I won it two years in a row, does not mean that it belongs to me.”
Lyles was more than three-tenths off Bolt’s world record of 19.19 seconds, a benchmark that he boldly predicted he would “almost certain” break, earlier on Friday.
“Of course, I wanted to be faster. I still want to break the American record again,” Lyles said, about his 19.31 personal best. “After my fifth race (in Budapest) and running 19.5, I can’t be disappointed.”
The extraverted and immensely confident U.S. track star led the race around the bend and never looked back. There was no doubt. Lyles sped to his third consecutive world championships gold medal in his favorite event. Bolt dashed to four consecutive titles in the event between 2009 and 2015.
Lyles executed step one of his ‘sprint double’ blazing to 100-meter gold in 9.83 seconds last Sunday night.
The 200-meter victory under the lights on Friday night was his fifth world championships gold medal, coming across the last three editions of the marquee event.
Lyles’ 19-year-old U.S. teammate, Erriyon Knighton, was his closest challenger, crossing the line in 19.75 seconds, 0.23 off the winning time. Knighton’s silver medal is his second world championships medal and an upgrade from his bronze at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon. The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Kenneth Bednarek was fifth, with a time of 20.07, 0.26 seconds behind bronze medalist Letsile Tebogo of Botswana.
At the 2022 world championships, Knighton became the youngest-ever individual sprint medalist in the history of the championships, which date to 1983. He also won a U.S. national title in July.
“The main thing I learned [here tonight] is to just come to the line and just be ready to run; like Noah said, people in every other lane want to claim that first spot,” Knighton said, asked about grabbing his second world championships medal. “For me, I just want to claim that first spot and go out there and run as fast as possible also.
“It’s a new experience every time I get on the track,” said the humble, rising talent.
Lyles, Bednarek and Knighton took their best shot at repeating their gold, silver and bronze medal performance, respectively, from last summer’s world championships. They came up just a few places short.
The 26-year-old Florida sprinter adds his name to an elite group of American sprinters who have also achieved the world championships sprint double: Tyson Gay (2007), Justin Gatlin (2005) and Maurice Greene (1999).
Canadian Andre De Grasse, who defeated Lyles by 0.12 seconds en route to his Tokyo gold medal in a race that the American took bronze, heaped praise on his North American rival.
“This is Noah’s championships – he’s going to get the triple gold,” De Grasse said, alluding to the 4x100-meter relay still to be contested on Saturday. “Everything has worked out in his favor here. I’m proud of him to be able to do that because that is something that I’ve been chasing. It’s super amazing.”
Lyles, who is being featured in new Peacock docuseries called ‘Untitled: The Noah Lyles Project,’ which was released just before the start of worlds, has said repeatedly that his mission is to do everything in his power and make significant, positive changes for the greater good of track and field. Questioned by Team USA, as to how exactly he plans to accomplish this, Lyles was outspoken, not surprisingly.
“I don’t think we have three hours to talk about this,” Lyles said, letting out a big laugh. “Yes, the medals are first because if you don’t have medals, who is going to pay attention to you. After you get the medals and then you get the times, and now more and more people gain interest.
“Now you can start go into different directions – you can start collaborating with other people, meeting bigger and bigger athletes. Then from athletes, you go to artists, from artists you go to the world. Now you have bigger connections.
“Just being in that crowd just boosts the whole idea [of track and field’s] notoriety.”
It is evident the U.S. track and field superstar wants to take the sport squarely on his shoulders and propel it to greater influence and popularity in the competitive sports marketplace. Like the 200-meter, he seems to take it personally.
“We got to do more," Lyles said, adamantly. "We have to present [track and field] to the world."