By Jonathan Gault
September 1, 2017
Twenty-year-old Noah Lyles earned the biggest victory yet in his young professional career by claiming the Diamond League 200-meter title at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels on Thursday, holding off U.S. champ Ameer Webb and world champ Ramil Guliyev at the line to win in 20.00.
Lyles flashed his immense potential earlier this year by setting a world indoor record over 300 meters at USAs and winning his Diamond League debut in Shanghai in May. He looked poised to challenge the world’s best in London, but after winning his first-round heat at USAs in June, he withdrew before the semis with a hamstring injury.
Lyles hadn’t raced since then, but he had qualified for this final by virtue of his Shanghai victory — where he became just the fourth teenager ever under 20 seconds — and decided to race. Clearly, it was a very good decision as he’s now $50,000 richer and has the Diamond League title to boot.
Coming off the bend, Lyles, was an afterthought on the outside in lane 9, as it looked to be a battle between Guliyev and Webb in the middle of the track. Those two remained close all the way, but in the end it was Lyles, who has great speed endurance, who closed best over the final 50 meters to win in 20.00 as Webb ran 20.01 and Guliyev 20.02.
After the race Lyles said, “I just wanted to come out here and see what I could do. I didn’t manage to qualify for the World Championships but this is a great way to end my season. It doesn’t feel like revenge or something, but more like an opportunity I took with both hands. Next year I will try to do even better.”
It’s scary to think what Lyles could have accomplished in London had he been healthy. The 200 was wide open at Worlds, and Lyles just beat the world champion tonight despite running blind in lane 9. He’ll have to wait two years for his next shot at global glory, but considering Lyles is only 20 years old, he should have several more chances at gold. 100-meter world champ Justin Gatlin may be 35 years old, but with Lyles, Christian Coleman (21), and Trayvon Bromell (22) the future of U.S. sprinting is in good hands.
Final, Wind: +0.9