Noah Lyles wants to do something in Tokyo that no American sprinter has done at the Olympics since 2004 — win the gold medal at the 200m.
Lyles, 24, posted the best final time of 2021 when he won the 200m final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in June with a time of 19.74 seconds.
Lyles will join Kenny Bednarek and Erriyon Knighton in Tokyo as the three U.S. runners for the 200m event. Of the three American speedsters, Lyles is the favorite to win the gold in his 200m dash. If he wins, he’d be the first American to capture gold at the event since Shawn Crawford in 2004.
Lyles has one shot at Olympic gold in Tokyo
While Lyles is known for excelling at the 200m, he also ran in the 100m event at the Olympic Trials. It did not go nearly as well as planned. Competing with the likes of Trayvon Bromell and Ronnie Baker, Lyles had his work cut out for him.
What people didn’t expect was to see Lyles finish seventh out of eight runners in the final, with a time of 10.05. He had run under 10 seconds in both the first round and the semifinal, but put up his worst performance in the most crucial spot. Lyles shifted his focus and left no doubt in the 200m final, and that will be his main focus in Tokyo.
He was 0.09 seconds away from making Team USA in 2016
Track truly is a game of seconds. Lyles impressed in the 200m event at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. He had the fastest time out of any runner during the preliminary round, came in first in his semifinal heat and was in a prime position to finish as one of the top three runners and punch his ticket to Rio.
However, Lyles barely missed out on making his first Olympics right out of high school. In the final round of the qualifiers, Ameer Webb beat out Lyles for the third and final 200m spot, finishing with a time of 20.00 while Lyles came in at 20.09.
Lyles turned pro instead of running at the University of Florida
Lyles could have been one of the top track athletes at the NCAA level. He committed to Florida in 2015 with his younger brother, Josephus. The brothers would have been a part of one of the top track classes the Gators had ever seen, as it also included Grant Holloway — the same Holloway who will be traveling to Tokyo to compete in the 110m hurdles.
Instead of attending college, Noah and Josephus decided to go pro. The two brothers signed with Adidas in 2016, becoming what is believed to be the first pair of male sprinters to jump over the collegiate level and head straight to the professional level.
Lyles paid homage to Tommie Smith and John Carlos during qualifiers
Normally it is Lyles’ feet that make him stand out. But this time it was his fist.
Before the 100m final at last month’s trials, Lyles rose his first to the air while wearing a black glove, the very same gesture from Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. Lyles has been competing with a back glove on his hand since August as he wants to bring about the issue of social injustice in the U.S. He posted a picture with the raised fist on his Instagram, with the caption, “As athletes it’s hard to show that you love your country and also say that change is needed. This is my way of saying this country is great but it can be better.”
Lyles has also shown his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a number of ways, including releasing a song titled, “A Black Life.” Expect to see Lyles continue to use his platform to spread awareness about social injustice in America.
Track and field runs in the Lyles family
It was inevitable that Lyles would end up focusing on a career in track. Both of his parents ran track at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where each were conference champions. His father, Kevin, also won gold medals with the United States in the 4x400m relay at the 1993 Summer Universiade and the 1995 World Championships in Athletics.