Noah Lyles was not even born the last time an American broke the men’s 200-meter record.That’s how long Michael Johnson’s 1996 time of 19.32 remained unbroken until last night, when 25-year-old Lyles, born a year later, broke it with a 19.31 at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Lyles easily won the race, finishing ahead of seven other runners, but the clock initially indicated that he ran a 19.32. The sprinter stared at the clock until officials confirmed that he had run 0.01 seconds faster than Johnson’s time, establishing him as the new American record-holder.
“I told it to cut me some slack, you know?” According to NPR, Lyles told reporters about the clock. “How will it show the same time, 19.32? Change that, please.
Johnson, who was commentating for the BBC at Worlds, even came down to the track to congratulate Lyles on breaking his record.
“I didn’t expect him to come down,” Lyles admitted.
That record was on the sprinter’s mind long before he stepped onto the starting line. Lyles told PEOPLE ahead of Worlds that he’s looking forward to “winning, running fast,” and that he’s “going after the American record.”
Lyles’ historic run was also a bit of redemption after he was expected to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics last year, only to finish third.
“There were a lot of things that hampered Tokyo,” Lyles said, explaining that he was running on a swollen knee for the duration of the event and was missing his usual team and family support due to strict pandemic restrictions on who could travel for the COVID-affected Games.
Lyles not only had his family and friends in the stands to cheer him on this time — including his brother Josephus, who is also representing the United States at Worlds in the 100M relay— but he was also able to soak up love from the crowd for the first time as a pro runner.
“Everyone remembers the Olympics when they were empty,” he said. Basically, none of the major senior championships I’ve attended have been crowded or hyped. We haven’t been able to see that Olympic, World Championship-vibe that you see on TV for the past ten years.
That home-field advantage aided not only Lyles, but also the two other Americans in the race, which resulted in a U.S. podium sweep. Behind Lyles, Americans Kenneth Bednarek and Erriyon Knighton finished second and third, respectively, with times of 19.77 and 19.80.
Kenneth Bednarek(Left),Noah Lyles(centre), Erriyon Knighton (Right)