Noah Lyles still owns the men’s 200-meter dash.
Lyles broke Michael Johnson’s national record Thursday night to repeat as world champion – and lead the second U.S. sprint sweep in six days at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
Lyles, 25, crossed the line in 19.31, shattering his previous personal best of 19.50 and besting Johnson’s record – set at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta – by one hundredth of a second.
Then, to celebrate, Lyles was greeted on the track by Johnson, which caught the new record holder by surprise. It was the first time the men had met in person. But no, Johnson did not give Lyles his famed golden spikes.
“I can’t take those,” cried Lyles, an adidas-sponsored athlete, “those are Nikes!”
Kenny Bednarek, the reigning Olympic silver medalist, came in second in 19.77, with 18-year-old Erriyon Knighton (19.80) close behind him for bronze.
It was the second sweep for the American men in the sprints, as Fred Kerley, Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell also went 1-2-3 in the 100.
It’s the first time the Americans have swept both events at the same world championship, and just the second time the U.S. has swept the 200. The other was 2005, in Helsinki.
Running in front of a home crowd, Lyles said, was “like being a rock star.”
“Through all the rounds when we would go out they’d be cheering our names but gosh darnit, when us three walked and they were already standing, already screaming our names out,” Lyles said. “You don’t hear that in Europe … they’re cheering for the countrymen. But we’re the countrymen here. And gosh darnit, that felt amazing.”
The story, however, was Lyles. It was a dominant showing from the 2021 Olympic bronze medalist, a performance that re-establishes him as the man to beat in a crowded 200-meter field and one of the biggest stars in the sport.
It looked like he had plenty of fun, too.
That matters, given the struggles that Lyles has spoken about over the past few years. He’s been honest and detailed about the way the COVID-19 pandemic impacted him, and about falling short of his own expectations in Tokyo. This season, however, has been different.
“Every time I got on the track this year, I knew I wasn’t that same person anymore,” Lyles said. “It’s like I found my juice, my groove. I was enjoying track again and just happy every day to be running.”
When he first crossed the line, Lyles saw 19.32 — a time that would have tied Johnson’s. He wasn’t exactly thrilled.
“Nobody wants to share a record,” he explained with a grimace.
But when it flashed 19.31, he ripped his jersey open, letting out a guttural scream.
“When it was tied I was like, I’m not gonna (rip my jersey),” Lyles said. “But then when I broke it I was like, ‘I’m doing it!’”
It was a satisfying night for Bednarek, too, who missed seven weeks of training in December after breaking his right big toe during a home improvement project gone wrong. (“The thing was, I broke my toe and then I realized I put the cabinet together wrong, which made it worse,” he said with a sigh. “I’m not a handyman. I learned my lesson.”)
Meanwhile, Knighton became the youngest medalist ever in the 200 at the world championships, an accomplishment he couldn’t fully grasp an hour after the race.
“I’m excited,” Knighton said, in somewhat of a daze. “It’s just, I’ve just gotta get time to think about what I just did.”
Lyles, who didn’t realize the order they finished in until he stepped up to the podium, was happy Bednarek and Knighton were ready to push him from the gun.
“I told them, ‘You all put the fear of God in my start!’” Lyles said. “Today was the start of my life — and it’s only going to get faster.”
Asked who he considered his biggest rival going forward, Bednarek or Knighton, Lyles didn’t hesitate.
“Me,” he said.
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Shericka Jackson flirts with history
Meanwhile, in the women’s 200, Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson came within about a tenth of a second of a world record.
Jackson won the 2022 world title in 21.45 seconds, the second-fastest time ever – and the closest anyone has ever come to Florence Griffith Joyner’s longstanding world record. Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took silver, and Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain won bronze.
The two Americans in the field, Abby Steiner and Tamara Clark, finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
U.S. decathlete suspended
The reigning national champion in the decathlon has been suspended for violating anti-doping rules, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced.
USADA said Garrett Scantling, who finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics, has accepted a provisional suspension for “possible whereabouts and tampering” violations, indicating that he missed several drug tests but did not test positive for a banned substance. The suspension knocked him out of competing at the world championships.
“This system can be harsh on clean athletes but I take full responsibility for my actions as it could have been completely avoided,” Scantling wrote on Instagram.
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