Team USA Track and Field Athletes Excel in Budapest, Strive to Ride Momentum Into Paris 2024
by Brian Pinelli
The U.S. track and field team ran, jumped and threw their way to 29 total medals, including 12 golds, more than twice the amount of any other nation, at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
It was certainly a well-executed, all-around team showing, with numerous athletes hitting their stride, while building momentum toward the Olympic Games Paris 2024, now less than a year away.
In fact, the team’s effort and overall results at the nine-day championships were roughly equivalent to the accomplishments at the 2022 World Athletics Championships, on home turf, in Eugene, Oregon.
The team’s medal haul in Budapest, amounted to just one less gold and four less total medals, as compared to Eugene 2022. The 12 world championship gold medals were spread across eight individual events and four relays.
Gold medalists included: Noah Lyles, Ryan Crouser, Grant Holloway, Sha’Carri Richardson, Katie Moon, Laulauga Tausaga and Chase Ealey. Relay victories came in both the men’s and women’s 4x100, the men’s 4x400 and the mixed 4x400.
The U.S. sprinting superstar Lyles led the charge, accelerating to his 100-200 double in spectacular fashion. He then added a cherry on top with a third gold medal, anchoring the men’s 4x100-meter relay, on the penultimate day of the championships.
“Grabbing three gold medals is more than I can truly have asked for because you never know what can happen in a relay, so getting three is a huge blessing,” Lyles said, at a press conference in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday, prior to his next meet – the Weltklasse on Thursday.
The outspoken sprinter boldly professed that he will surpass Usain Bolt’s 200-meter world record, creating added excitement, debate and interest in the sport. Lyles may have been three-tenths of a second off in Budapest, but he equaled the Jamaican icon’s 100-200 double in Hungary, a formdiable challenge that Bolt conquered three times.
“I’m truly happy – of course there were times that were obviously written, but at the end of the day you can only become a world champion on those days,” Lyles said. “Times can always come.”
The 26-year-old sprinter may have been MVP for Team USA at these championships; however, it was Ryan Crouser, who got the ball rolling on opening night.
The two-time Olympic shot put champion defended his world title delivering another epic performance. Crouser took command tossing 22.63 meters/74 feet 3 inches on his first throw, then improved to a championship record 22.98 meters/75-4.75 in round two. He exploded on his sixth and final throw, unleashing the second-longest throw in history, a colossal 23.51 meters/77-1.75. The heave was just five centimeters short of his pending world record from May.
Crouser has made it clear that he wants to rewrite history and surpass U.S. legends Ralph Rose and Parry O’Brien, with a third Olympic shot put gold medal in Paris.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to hopefully be the first person to win three – it would truly be an honor,” Crouser told Team USA. “Chasing that third is definitely a big motivator for me, especially with the history of the event.”
Crouser’s victory was the first of two for the U.S. on opening night at the National Athletics Center. The foursome of Justin Robinson, Rosey Effiong, Matthew Boling and Alexis Holmes were fastest on the track in the 4x400-meter mixed relay, bringing home gold.
The two men and two women broke the U.S. and world record of 3:09.34, established at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. The victory was aided by the dramatic fall of Dutch star Femke Bol, as she stumbled while challenging the Americans for the line.
Lyles certainly wasn’t the only American sprinter to shine with multiple medals in the sweltering Budapest heat. Sha’Carri Richardson sizzled with a breakout performance, dethroning two-time defending champion Shell-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She won the women’s 100 from lane nine in a world championship record 10.65 seconds.
It was a nail-biter for the 23-year-old to even advance to the final, as she nervously awaited all semifinal heats to see if her third-place heat time of 10.84 would make the cut. It did, but only by the narrowest of margins. Richardson found another gear in the final.
“I would say never give up, never allow media, never allow outside influences, never allow anything but yourself and your faith to define who you are,” said Richardson, asked about overcoming recent adversity. “Always fight, no matter what the fight is.”
Richardson also captured gold in the women’s 4x100 relay and bronze in the 200, an above-expectations performance at her first major international meet. Perhaps the 100-200 double will now be the aim for the Texas sprinter come Paris.
Gabby Thomas and 19-year-old Erriyon Knighton, both of whom sped to silver medals in their respective 200-meter races, rounded out the U.S. sprinters to stand on podiums in individual races.
Veteran Grant Holloway concluded a three-peat in the men’s 110-meter hurdles, clocking 12.96 to earn gold in the event at three consecutive championships. His teammate Daniel Roberts hurdled his way to bronze, while Freddie Crittenden was fourth. If not for Jamaican Olympic champion Hansle Parchment, who split the Americans for silver, there could have been a U.S. medal sweep.
Holloway equaled the three-world championship 110 hurdle titles of the late Greg Foster, who was victorious at the first three editions of the championships. With Holloway’s latest triumph, U.S. high hurdlers have won 12 times across 19 world championships for a 63% winning-percentage. The only other individual event that U.S. track and field athletes have thrived equally is the men’s 100.
The women’s pole vault with all eyes on defending Olympic and world champion Katie Moon, ended dramatically with an unexpected twist.
Moon and Australian Nina Garrett found themselves deadlocked after both making clutch 4.90-meter/16-0.75 jumps on third attempts and then both proceeding to miss three tries at 4.95 meters/16-2.75. Essentially, the duo concluded the competition in a dead heat.
After a friendly conversation, following a rigourous competition, the U.S. and Australian pole vaulters opted to skip a jump-off and mutually agreed to share the gold medal. Both admitted taking inspiration from high jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Essa Barshim, who negotiated a similar outcome at the Olympic Games Toyko 2020.
Against all odds, three nights later, American Chris Nilsen and Aussie Kurtis Marschall also shared a medal, albeit bronze, as they both leaped 5.95 meters/19-6.25 with equal misses in the men’s pole vault.
“Sharing is caring right now, apparently, when it comes to Aussies and American medals,” Nilsen said with a smile, shortly after the competition won by the high-flying Armand “Mondo” Duplantis.
Another bona-fide U.S. talent who continues to attract well-deserved attention is U.S. heptathlete Anna Hall. The 22-year-old added a silver medal to her bronze from Eugene 2022.
Although Hall was quite dissatisfied with her second-place, 6,720-point showing, finishing behind Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson – in the immensely physically and emotionally draining two-day competition – Hall continues to elevate her game along the road to Paris.
“I really wanted gold and fought my heart out,” Hall said. “Kat was just better today, I got beat and I just have to take that and use it for motivation next year.”
Hall, who has been battling injuries, credited part of her success in Budapest to U.S. heptathlon legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who gave her a pep talk days before competition. Hall and Joyner-Kersee now each own two world championship heptathlon medals, although the two-time Olympic champion has two golds.
The U.S. also displayed dominance in the women’s weight events.
Across hammer throw, discus and shot put, Team USA throwers brought home five of nine medals, including a surprising gold by Laulauga Tausaga in the discus, and victory for Chase Ealey in the shot.
Tausauga uncorked a personal best toss of 69.49 meters/228-0 in the final round to upset her highly-favored teammate, Valarie Allman.
“It will be a treat to see how people will react to this – people love an underdog and I was that one tonight, said Tausaga.
Considering Team USA’s stellar performances, the athletes were naturally peppered with questions about also thriving at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Many athletes exuded confidence, while also pointing out that a paramount performance at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials must come first along the road to punching their tickets to Paris.
“It is going to take a lot of really good training, maybe a touch of luck, on any given day it’s anyone’s day,” said Katie Moon, queried about defending her Olympic pole vault gold medal from Tokyo 2020. “I’m so grateful that it’s been my day these past couple of years, but I know these girls are going to be gunning for it next year. I’m going to work my butt off to make this happen.”
Other U.S. world championship medalists responded to Paris-related questions with even more bravado.
JuVaughn Harrison and Italian Gianmarco Tamberi both soared to world leading high jumps of 2.36 meters (7 feet 9 inches) in a Budapest showdown, but the flamboyant 2020 Olympic champion from Italy took gold based upon fewer misses.
In Tokyo, Harrison became the first athlete to compete in both the long and high jump at the Olympics, since Jim Thorpe in 1912. The Alabama athlete finished fifth in the long jump and seventh in the high jump.
The 24-year-old intends to once again pursue both events in Paris. He is supremely confident that this time around, he will go higher, and farther.
“The plan is to win, the goal is always to bring home a gold medal,” Harrison told Team USA. “Next year at Paris, I plan on winning both.”