Noah Lyles celebrates at the IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019 (© AFP / Getty Images)
Noah Lyles’s talent and exuberance has lit up athletics for a number of years. Although he only turned 22 in July, this young sprinter from Gainesville, Florida, has already won gold medals at the Youth Olympics, Pan American Junior Championships and World U20 Championships, as well as winning the Diamond trophy for 200m for the past three seasons.
Now, at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, he stands ready to earn what could be the first of many senior global titles.
Earlier in the season Lyles was still in two minds about whether to go for the 100m and 200m in Doha, but he made his decision ahead of the US Trials – where he contested the 200m only – and with his task simplified he won in 19.78 at Des Moines, 0.24 faster than the man who had taken world 100m silver two years earlier, Christian Coleman.
“It feels amazing, I ain’t gonna lie,” Lyles said after his trials win. “There’s a lot of things I wanted to happen this year, and this was one of the highest on the list.”
Next up: the IAAF Diamond League. Tick. Only this time he prefaced it by winning the 100m title the week before in Zurich in 9.98. His season's best of 9.86 in that event, set when winning in Shanghai, puts him second on this year’s world list to Coleman’s 9.81.
Next up: Doha, where he arrives as the fastest 200m runner this year, having run 19.50 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, putting him fourth on the world all-time list behind Usain Bolt, world record-holder with 19.19, Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake, who has run 19.26, and USA's former world record-holder Michael Johnson, who ran 19.32 in winning the 1996 Olympic title in Atlanta.
For all his achievements, however, Lyles faces some serious opposition in Qatar. The man who inflicted a rare 200m defeat on him by winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome in 19.70, 21-year-old Michael Norman of the US, is concentrating on his main event of the 400m at the World Championships.
But present and correct will be Turkey’s defending champion Ramil Guliyev, who will be ready to seize on any mistakes Lyles might make having improved his personal best to 19.76 in Berlin last year.
Guliyev followed Lyles home at the IAAF Diamond League final in 19.86, just 0.01 ahead of Canada’s Olympic silver medallist Andre De Grasse, who, as he makes his full recovery from a hamstring injury, could once again return to a global championships podium.
And Lyles will have to contend with another 22-year-old talent who has succeeded De Grasse as NCAA champion over 200m: Nigeria’s Divine Oduduru, who won the collegiate 200m title in June this year in a championship record of 19.73, the third fastest recorded this year.
Oduduru finished last over 100m in Monaco when he made his IAAF Diamond League debut in July. But he has already proven himself as a championship 200m performer, having won silver at the 2014 IAAF World U20 Championships, the 2018 African Championships and this year’s African Games. One to be watched.
Others who could make a serious impact include Lyles’s US teammate Kenneth Bednarek, who has run 19.82 this year, Ecuador’s consistent performer Alex Quinonez, who has run 19.87, Miguel Francis of Britain, who has a 19.88 clocking, and China’s Xie Zhenye, who has also run 19.88.
And let’s not, of course, forget the man who has a best of 19.85 – Coleman.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF