Sprinter Noah Lyles Breaks Decades-Old American 200M Record to Win Gold in U.S. Sweep

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Noah Lyles
Noah Lyles

Steph Chambers/Getty Noah Lyles

The last time an American broke the men's 200-meter record, Noah Lyles wasn't even alive.

That's how long Michael Johnson's time of 19.32 in 1996 has stood, up until last night, when 25-year-old Lyles, born a year after, broke it with a 19.31 at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Lyles easily won the race, ahead of seven other runners, but the clock first showed that he ran a 19.32. The sprinter stared at the clock until officials were able to confirm that he had indeed run 0.01 seconds faster than Johnson's mark, making him the new American record-holder.

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"I was telling it to give me some slack, you know?" Lyles told reporters of the clock, according to NPR. "How's it going to show the same time, 19.32? Come on, change that."

Noah Lyles of Team United States
Noah Lyles of Team United States

Christian Petersen/Getty Noah Lyles

Johnson, who was at Worlds as a commentator for BBC, even came down to the track to congratulate Lyles for breaking his record.

"To be honest, I didn't expect him to come down," Lyles said.

The sprinter had that record in mind well before he toed the starting line. Talking to PEOPLE ahead of Worlds, Lyles said that he was looking forward to "winning, running fast," and that he's "planning on going after the American record."

Lyles' monumental run was also a bit of redemption after he was expected to take gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics last year, only to come in what was a disappointing third.

"There was a lot of things that hindered Tokyo," Lyles said, explaining that he was running on a swollen knee for the entire event and was without his usual team and family support, due to the strict pandemic limits on who could travel for the COVID-affected Games.

Noah Lyles of Team United States
Noah Lyles of Team United States

Steph Chambers/Getty Noah Lyles

Lyles was not only able to have his family and friends in the stands for support this time — including his brother Josephus, who is also representing the U.S. at Worlds in the 100M relay — but this time around, he could soak up love from the crowd for essentially the first time as a pro runner.

"Everyone remembers the Olympics being empty," he said. "Basically, all the big senior championships that I've been to have not been crowded and hyped. That Olympic, World Championship-vibe that you get that you see on TV for the past 10 years, we haven't been able to see that."

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And for Lyles — a self-titled "showman" knows he does better when the stands are rocking.

"I am very much known to engage with the crowd, and they love to engage back with me," he said "Anytime there's a big crowd, I usually perform 20% better than I would if there wasn't."

Noah Lyles
Noah Lyles

Hannah Peters/Getty (L-R) Erriyon Knighton, Noah Lyles and Kenneth Bednarek

And that home-turf crowd support helped not only Lyles, but the two other Americans in the race, which ended in a U.S. podium sweep. Behind Lyles, Americans Kenneth Bednarek and Erriyon Knighton took second and third with times of 19.77 and 19.80, respectively.