Noah Lyles earned the first of what will surely be a sequence of global sprint crowns here tonight as he won the world 200m title with efficiency rather than flamboyance in a time of 19.83.
The naturally exuberant 22-year-old had already indicated his talent by winning the last three IAAF Diamond League titles over this distance, and by clocking 19.50 earlier this season, putting him fourth on the all-time list behind world record holder Usain Bolt, on 19.19, Bolt’s Jamaican compatriot Yohan Blake, on 19.26, and fellow countryman Michael Johnson, on 19.32.
Behind Lyles, Canada’s Rio 2016 silver medallist Andre De Grasse confirmed his return from longstanding hamstring injury problems by taking another silver in 19.95, ahead of the hugely consistent Alex Quinonez, who became Ecuador’s second world medallist following the race walking triumphs of Jefferson Perez.
In the end, Lyles’ decision to concentrate on the longer sprint rather than doubling at the 100m – in which he became Diamond League champion at the end of August - paid off.
“So many times this year I’ve thought of being world champion, you wouldn’t believe it,” said Lyles.
“I have on my phone, I say it to myself in my car, I think it all the time – and finally to have done it feels unbelievable.
“I don’t know how many people come to their first World Championships and get the gold, but I’ve done it. I just knew that no matter what position I found myself in I can always find a way to come through. And when I crossed the line I just felt relief.
“Don’t say I’m the new Bolt. I’m me. If you like me I’ll happily entertain you. It’s my time.”
With world gold safely in his grasp, the emotional significance became evident as he sank into the arms of his mother Keisha, who at one point carefully removed her glasses to dab at her eyes with a Stars and Stripes flag that matched the one around her son’s shoulders.
While Lyles began his celebrations, Adam Gemili, who won gold at the 2017 World Championships in London as part of Britain’s 4x100m, sank down near the hoardings, clutching a bottle of water and the remnants of his ambition after finishing fourth having headed the field into the finishing straight.
For a few heady moments it looked as if this most amiable of athletes, European 200m champion in 2014, was about to earn a first individual global medal, perhaps even, incredibly….but no.
Lyles, maintaining his form with steely concentration, was the first to come past him, and as the line loomed the Briton, who had run a season’s best of 20.03 in the semi-final, began to tie up.
Ten yards from the line, De Grasse, to his left, and Quinonez, to his right, glided past him and he crossed. Another near miss for Gemili, who clocked exactly the same time as he had in the semi-final.
One place behind him came Turkey’s defending champion, Ramil Guliyev, whose fitful form here had only earned him a place in lane nine, from where he ran 20.07.
“I lost all my balance at the end,” Gemili reflected. “I had nothing left. I came so close and I just let it go. I’m so sorry. I feel I’ve let so many people down. The last two years I have been plagued with injury and to get back to where I should be has been so hard. Then not to break 20 seconds today was so disappointing.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF