Noah Lyles Is Coming for Usain Bolt’s World Record

This article originally appeared on Outside

After cruising through the semifinal of the 200 meters on August 24 at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, American Noah Lyles will aim for gold in the final on Friday at 9:50 P.M. local time (3:50 P.M. ET) alongside teen sprint phenom Erriyon Knighton of the U.S. Lyles ran 19.76, the top time in the field of 27 competitors that competed across three heats.

Lyles and 19-year-old Knighton, the youngest-ever individual sprint medalist in world championships history, will be joined by 100-meter bronze medalist Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain as well as Kenny Bednarek of the U.S., silver medalist in 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and Canadian Andre De Grasse, the Olympic champion in the event.

Just 0.12 seconds separate Lyles from tying the world record in his signature event, the 200 meters. He is currently the third fastest of all-time behind Jamaicans Yohan Blake and eight-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Usain Bolt, who retired in 2017.

runner in red shrugs as he finishes in first place
Noah Lyles celebrates after competing in the Men’s 200m semifinal on day six of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on August 24. (Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Image/Getty)

A World Record in His Sights

As Lyles prepares for the 200-meter final on August 25, the "it guy" is bent on one big quest: to break a record that has stood for 14 years.

Bolt set the mark of 19.19 seconds during the 2009 world championships in Berlin, running at a top speed of more than 23 miles per hour, and improving his previous world record by more than a 10th of a second.

Lyles was just 12 years old at the time and had just started track, initially as a high jumper before he pursued sprinting at age 15. Lyles and his younger brother Josephus bypassed college athletics and turned pro after graduating from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2016, and signed an eight-year contract with Adidas.

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He moved to Clermont, Florida, to be trained by top sprints coach Lance Brauman. That year, Lyles would go on to place fourth in the final of the 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials, breaking a 31-year-old national high school record in the process.

One year later, Lyles won his first senior national title, and in 2019, he earned his first of four world titles (including two in 200 meters, one in 4 x 100). Following his bronze medal performance in the 200 meters at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the next season he clocked 19.31 at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon, a number he had worked for in the build up to that race. He took down sprint legend Michael Johnson's 25-year American record, which Johnson famously set in 19.32 seconds while wearing golden shoes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Lyles's achievement at last year's world championships bumped him above Johnson to number three of all-time in the 200 meters.

"I've Always Known That I'm the Fastest Man in the World"

Lyles, 26, is the defending world champion in 200 meters, and is focusing on collecting his third gold in the event as he also aims to revise Bolt's world record to 19.10 seconds.

Nine days before the start of the world championships, Lyles had openly declared on social media the times he would run for both the 100 and 200 meters: 9.65 and 19.10, respectively. "They say if they don't know your dreams then they can't shoot them down. But I have always been more of a guy who loves to hear the screams from the [haters], got a nice ring to it," Lyles wrote in a captioned photo on his Instagram.

"I've always known that I'm the fastest man in the world," he said during a media event after posting his fastest 100-meter in 9.83 seconds on August 20, at the National Athletics Center, and earned his first world title in the event. "In my head, I think I'm going to break it, but everybody else has their own opinions," Lyles said.

Taking down Bolt's 200-meter world record is the subject of an exclusive docuseries, "Untitled: The Noah Lyles Project," which premiered on Peacock the day before the start of the world championships. His mother Keisha Caine said in an interview for the docuseries what she wants for her son is "to go out there and have fun. And I know when Noah is having fun, he runs really well."

In a short matter of time, Lyles will let his speed determine what that is.

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