Noah Lyles breaks Michael Johnson’s 1996 record. knew he had run the best race of his life — and possibly the best 200-meter race ever run by an American. He finished so far ahead of the other runners in Thursday night’s World Athletics Championships final that when he crossed the finish line, he turned to face his only true opponent: the clock.
For agonising moments, however, the on-field clock stubbornly displayed Lyles’ unofficial time as 19.32. The time would be incredible for any other runner in the world, but it was also the time set by Michael Johnson in the 200m at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Since then, it has appeared untouchable. Until now.
Lyles, 25, stood there staring, hands on his hips. He approached and spoke to the clock at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
“I was telling it to give me some slack, you know?” he later laughed to reporters. “How will the same time, 19.32, be displayed? Please change that.”
He knelt in front of it, wondering if his efforts would be rewarded. After a disappointing (for him) bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics one summer, Lyles set his sights on the record. It all came together in Oregon, where Lyles seized control of a highly anticipated race with a blistering start.
Lyles appeared to be arguing with the clock as he stood on the track afterward. When he finally turned away, two things happened. The clock’s display reduced his time by a hundredth of a second: 19.31. Above, the magical word “Official” blared.
As screens around the stadium updated with the official time, the celebration of a world title erupted into euphoria over Lyles being crowned the fastest American ever in the 200 metres. His big moment arrived, accompanied by a large family cheering him on. “Mom, stepdad, sister, brother, father, stepmother, uncle, and grandmother,” Lyles explained later.
The new record capped a U.S. sweep in the men’s 200 metres, with Erriyon Knighton, 18, winning bronze and Kenneth Bednarek winning silver.
Lyles had been waiting a long time for this moment. He has made a point of being open about the difficulties he has encountered while training and racing, including asthma. He claims that therapy helped him cope with depression, and he works to encourage young kids to participate in track even if they do not have the financial means to do so.
Lyles, on the other hand, outran the rest of the world on Thursday night, establishing a new gold standard for US track and field. He is now widely regarded as one of the world’s fastest men. Only Jamaican runners Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake have run faster than him in 19.31 seconds.
As a BBC Sport commentator, Johnson was present to witness his record fall. He personally congratulated Lyles.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect him to come down,” Lyles smiled.
However, Johnson did. And so, finally, did his record.