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Noah Lyles wins 100m at world championships, just like he planned

Lyles wins gold in classic men's 100m final
Noah Lyles backs up his talk and shocks the world by winning gold in a classic 100m championship final at the 2023 Track and Field World Championships.

BUDAPEST — The plan was always for Noah Lyles to be a 100m sprinter, too. It took seven years as a professional best known for 200m titles to become the world’s fastest man, culminating at the world championships on Sunday.

The evening was a Lyles production in so many ways.

Most of all the 100m win in 9.83 seconds — the fastest time of his 26-year-old life — over Letsile Tebogo of Botswana and Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain, also first-time medalists in the event.

Coach Lance Brauman texted Lyles before he arrived at the track, per usual. Brauman, the Floridian who became Lyles’ coach after he turned professional out of high school in 2016, sent a Lyles favorite for motivation: this Dragon Ball Z gif with the line, “You wouldn’t like me when I am angry.”

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Then Lyles went out and won his semifinal with typical swagger — waving his right index finger at 90 meters and high stepping through the finish line.

“Run it back! Run it back!” he yelled, a reminder that the final would be two and a half hours later.

Lyles readied for this final for weeks. His hair was braided to have a lightning bolt pattern at the top — an ode to the first episode of his Peacock docuseries, titled “Chasing Lightning,” which includes a meet-up with Usain Bolt in Jamaica. Bolt, the ultimate showman, told Lyles to keep being Lyles.

And so Lyles had his 16-year-old nail technician give him a star design for these world championships. Lyles had the look.

Then he had the race that he needed. Similar to Bolt, Lyles is not a strong starter. But as he drove out of the blocks, he sensed his place in the field.

“You guys didn’t get out far enough,” he thought to himself of the other seven men.

Lyles went from battling for fourth place at the halfway point to surging past Christian Coleman and Tebogo and winning by five hundredths.

“They said it couldn’t be done,” Lyles said, forcefully, to an on-track camera. “They said I wasn’t the one. But I thank God that I am.”

Lyles also planned out his post-race family celebration before he flew overseas.

His loved ones, including mom Keisha Caine Bishop, pulled out black caps with gold lettering signifying the years of his world championships: 2019 and 2022 in the 200m and now 2023 in the 100m.

He called this gold medal “ticket No. 1,” one that he worked nine months for and one that had been seven years in the waiting.

Lyles’ breakthrough was a fourth-place finish in the 200m at the 2016 Olympic Trials out of high school. He became linked with that event, becoming the fourth teen to break 20 seconds in 2017, then winning world titles in 2019 and 2022.

But, “the goal all along was for him to be a 100m/200m guy,” said Brauman, who also coached Veronica Campbell-Brown, Tyson Gay and the late Tori Bowie to world 100m titles after their first significant wins were in the 200m.

In the 100m, Lyles was world U20 champion in 2016 and the senior U.S. champion in 2018 (a non-world championship year, so he eschewed the 200m at those nationals).

Lyles hoped to double in the 100m and 200m at the Tokyo Olympics, but he was seventh in the 100m at the Olympic Trials in a mentally challenging year. He hoped to double at the 2022 World Championships, then decided early that season that he needed to perfect his 200m, so he set aside the 100m to 2023.

His times this season in races and in practice told him that this is the fastest he has ever been. So Lyles predicted that he’d run 9.65 in the 100m (only Bolt has run faster) and 19.10 in the 200m (breaking Bolt’s world record).

So 9.83 is not 9.65, but consider that Lyles entered worlds seeded 12th by best times this year. And consider that he believes a 100m personal best will lead to a 200m personal best (and his 200m personal best is just 12 hundredths off Bolt’s world record).

On Friday, he can become the first man to win the 100m and the 200m at a world championships since Bolt did it for the third time in 2015. Then on Saturday, Lyles plans to win again in the 4x100m relay to become the first American to bag three golds at a single worlds since Gay and Allyson Felix in 2007.

“As people look back at this year, they’re going to be like, this is the year that Noah won the 100m, the 200m and the 4x100m,” he said. “And they’re going to be like, that is the start of a dynasty.”

Also Sunday, neither American Fred Kerley (reigning world champion) nor Italian Marcell Jacobs (Olympic gold medalist slowed by injuries) made it out of the 100m semifinals.

“I’m healthy, so that’s all that matters,” Kerley told Lewis Johnson on NBC Sports. “They got the better of me.”

In the heptathlon, Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson won her second world title by overtaking American Anna Hall, the first-day leader who competed with a left knee injury.

Johnson-Thompson ran a personal best by 1.63 seconds in the 800m, the seventh and last event, to hold off Hall by 20 points (or 1.28 seconds in the 800m), the smallest margin in world championship history.

Johnson-Thompson won with 6,740 points on Sunday. In May, Hall won a heptathlon with 6,988 points.

Hall, who got injured slipping off a wet long jump board in early August, ran the fastest 800m ever in a world championships heptathlon.

Johnson-Thompson, who began the race with a 43-point lead, and Hall were neck and neck in projected points with about 200 meters to go before the Brit closed the gap.

Ivana Vuleta, a 33-year-old Serb, became the oldest woman to win a world title in the long jump (doing so after Olympic and world bronze medals). American Tara Davis-Woodhall took silver, her first senior global medal.

Davis-Woodhall was surprised by her husband, three-time Paralympic medalist sprinter Hunter Woodhall, in the mixed zone. She was then asked the meaning of the medal.

Davis-Woodhall thought back to her mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts in late 2020, shortly before she transferred from the University of Georgia to the University of Texas.

“I wasn’t supposed to be in this moment, three years ago,” she said.

The turning point back then came when she saw her Wheaten Terrier-poodle mix Milo.

“My dog was just looking at me, and I was like, I can’t do this,” she said. “I decided to just put one foot in front of the other, and I’m here.”

Worlds continue Monday, live on USA Network and Peacock, featuring the women’s 100m and men’s 110m hurdles finals.

Hall wins 800m heptathlon, comes in second overall
USA's Anna Hall wins the 800m to cap off the heptathlon but comes up just short overall, settling for silver behind English multi-athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson in a dramatic finish at Worlds.