SPRINTING HAS A new king. American Noah Lyles won the men’s 100m final in a blistering 9.83 seconds at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest overnight. In doing so, he showed his legs can run as fast as his mouth can. Lyles, already a two-time world champion in the 200m, had predicted before the Championships that he would confirm his place in history by winning three golds at this meet and threaten Usain Bolt’s world records in the 100 and 200m.
“They said I wasn’t the one. But I thank God that I am,” Lyles said after winning gold in 9.83s.
“I knew what I had to do. I came here for three golds, ticked off one, others are coming. The 100m was the hardest one, it is out of the books. I will have fun with the event I love now.”
Before the championships Lyles had posted, “I will run 9.65, 19.10”, on Instagram, predicting his times in the 100m and 200m. Lyles was 0.18 secs outside of his target time but you know what they say–dream big, live large. Letsile Tebogo of Botswana, Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain and Jamaica’s Oblique Seville all ran 9.88s. Tebogo was given the silver and Hughes the bronze split by thousandths of a second.
Earlier, Australia’s Rohan Browning failed to qualify for the final. Browning ran the same time in the semi-final as his heat—10.11s—to finish fourth and miss the cut for the final.
“I am just really disappointed. I definitely felt like I was in shape to run a lot better. I felt like I had 60 metres of really good race,” Browning said after the race.
While disappointed with his run, the 25 year-old has now made the semi-finals at both the Olympics and World Championships and after previously failing to get out of the heats at previous world champs, his performance in this meet is a step up. A finals berth in Paris 2024 is clearly on the gloriously hirsute sprinter’s radar.
“I had two shocking world champs and this has been a bigger step forward—still not quite enough—but what you hope for is irrelevant, you have to be good enough,” he said.
He’s right. At this level, hope isn’t enough. As Lyles continues to show, you have to believe your own hype.
Who is Noah Lyles?
Lyles is a 26-year-old sprinter from Virginia. Previously a 200m specialist, Lyles has always wanted to make his name in the 100m, too; it just took seven years to do it.
Lyles became the fourth teenager to break 20 seconds in the 200m in 2017, before winning world titles in the event in 2019 and 2022. But he and his coach, Lance Brauman, always believed the sprinter could be a double threat in the 100m/200m. Lyles had targeted the 100m and 200m double crown at the Tokyo Olympics, but instead finished seventh in the 100m at the Olympic Trials. He was again considering targeting the double at the 2022 World Championships, before deciding to focus solely on the 200m.
Like Usain Bolt, who was also a 200m specialist to begin with, Lyles is a slow starter who relies on his superior top-pace speed to reel in his opponents in the last 40m. In the semi-final, Lyles went from battling for fourth place at the halfway point, to streaking past Christian Coleman and Tebogo to win by five hundredths of a second.
“You guys didn’t get out far enough,” he said he thought to himself of the other seven men in the race.
Why does Lyles talk so much trash?
Sprinting, like boxing, relies on supreme self-belief to succeed. For many sprinters, particularly Americans, predictions and trash-talk help elevate the stakes and put pressure on the athlete to then walk the walk. While the GOAT, Usain Bolt, wasn’t a renowned trash-talker, he was certainly a showman and his playful interactions with the crowd and bow-and-arrow gesturing not only helped calm his nerves but served as a psychological jab that perhaps punctured his opponents’ focus, and ultimately their confidence, by subtlely communicating, ‘look at how relaxed I am’.
Brauman, who became Lyles’ coach after he turned professional out of high school in 2016, sent Lyles his favourite Dragon Ball Z meme for motivation prior to his semi-final run: “You wouldn’t like me when I am angry”. Lyles proceeded to swagger his way to the line, waving his right index finger at the 90-metre mark and high stepping through to the finish line. Female sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, finished her heats in a similarly nonchalant style, waving her arms in the air like a conductor. Bolt made a career out of last-10m theatrics in heats, semis and, in his case, even finals.
After his semi-final victory, Lyles yelled, “Run it back! Run it back!” indicating he was more than ready for the final just two-and-a-half hours later.
Is Lyles the heir to Bolt’s throne?
Lyles has clearly had the Jamaican GOAT on his mind of late, braiding his hair to have a lightning bolt pattern on top—a nod to the Peacock docuseries, titled Chasing Lightning, in which he meets up with Bolt in Jamaica. Bolt told Lyles to “keep being Lyles”.
If Lyles can win the 200m final on Friday, he’ll become the first man to win the 100m and the 200m double at a world championships since Bolt did it for the third time in 2015. Does he have a legitimate shot at surpassing Bolt’s 9.58 100m-mark from the Berlin 2009 World Championships? Probably not, but by actively targeting it he might get closer than anyone has since.
Bolt’s 200m record of 19.19 is definitely in danger. Lyles’ 200m best of 19.31 is only 12 hundredths of a second outside Bolt’s mark. If Lyles delivers on his prediction of running 19.10 in these championships he’ll claim the world record. And if he and his teammates win the 4x100m relay on Saturday, they’ll become the first Americans to win three golds at a single world championships since Tyson Gay and Allyson Felix in 2007.
Can Rohan Browning make the final in Paris 2024?
Yes, but it’s going to be tough. To have a realistic shot Browning will need to break the 10-second mark. The last Aussie to do that was Patrick Johnson, who ran 9.93 in 2003. Browning got close in his heat in Tokyo, running 10.01, before blowing out to 10.09 in the semi-final. Over the past year, Browning has had 11 runs under 10.2 seconds, including 10.02 at the national titles. But putting it all together at the right time—a semi-final would be nice—remains the elusive piece of the puzzle. Even if he does run a sub-10-second race it doesn’t guarantee a final’s berth in a field as hot as an Olympic final is likely to be. If Lyles’ performance here in Budapest is anything to go by, perhaps it’s time Browning starts making some predictions.