Already well known in US track & field circles, 19 year-old Noah Lyles announced himself on the world stage on Saturday, dominating a strong field to win the 200m at the Diamond League in Shanghai, China.
Still over two months away from his 20th birthday, Lyles’ dominant victory in Shanghai saw the young American join only Alonso Edward, Adam Gemili and a certain Usain Bolt in running a sub-20 second 200 metre time whilst still a teenager.
However, what was even more noticeable about this display was the powerful -0.4 second headwind with which Lyles successfully negotiated on his way to smashing both his season (20.16) and personal bests (20.09), as well as the rest of the field.
That field included the likes of three-time Olympic and eight-time World Champion LaShawn Merritt, and upcoming British star Adam Gemili, who, in clocking 20.27 and 20.35 seconds respectively, did not come close to Lyles when the American stopped the clock at just 19.90 seconds.
Even in such testing conditions, that time went down as a 2017 world lead, equalling the record set by South African Wayde van Niekerk – the current 400m world record holder, World Champion and Olympic Champion – in Potchefstroom just last month.
Moreover, breaking records is nothing new for the 19 year-old, whose name is also visible in the collegiate record books, having recorded the second fastest time for a freshman in his event in history, the fastest in 18 years.
Born in Gainesville, Florida on 18 July 1997 to parents who themselves competing in track and field at Seton Hall University, Lyles first made a name for himself by winning 200m gold at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, four years after switching to athletics following a childhood in gymnastics. In hindsight, that looks to have been a good decision by all involved.
Lyles turned pro alongside his brother and fellow sprinter Josephus in July 2016, with both signing contracts with sportswear giant Adidas, and it was in the same year that this potential superstar won both 100m and 4 X 100m golds at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
A year older than his brother, Noah has also demonstrated his ability to combine speed and stamina by clocking a world record 300m indoor time of 31.88 at the US Indoor Championships in March 2017.
Like any promising young sprinter, Lyles will naturally have his name mentioned in the same conversation as the outgoing sprint champion Bolt. However, as the biggest name in the sport has said himself, we should be careful to predict success for young stars before they have truly ‘made it’.
With that in mind, if this young man is to remain focused, few could honestly write off his chances of making it to the top of his sport.
Noah Lyles. remember the name.