By Jonathan Gault
July 5, 2019
If anyone was concerned how Noah Lyles might respond after suffering his first-ever Diamond League defeat over 200 meters, to Michael Norman in Rome on June 6, they can set their worries aside. Lyles returned to the DL track and field circuit at the Athletissima meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Friday with the finest performance of his burgeoning career, a 19.50 (-.1 m/s) that makes him the fourth-fastest man of all time. It is the fastest time since Usain Bolt’s 19.32 to win the 2012 Olympic final and means the world all-time list now reads like this:
- 19.19 Usain Bolt 2009 Worlds
- 19.26 Yohan Blake 2011 Brussels DL
- 19.32 Michael Johnson 1996 Olympics
- 19.50 Noah Lyles 2019 Lausanne DL
- 19.53 Walter Dix 2011 Brussels DL
Lyles did not dwell on that defeat to Norman. In fact, he and coach Lance Brauman viewed it as a great result — Lyles ran 19.72 in Rome, just shy of the 19.67 he ran to win last year’s Diamond League final in Zurich.
“It was really good to see that we were really close to where we [ended last season] and we’re only starting the season,” Lyles told LetsRun last month in Boston. “And we pushed our season way further back than last year. So it was all good signs.”
Lyles also said that after going undefeated in the 200 for over two years, the loss in Rome helped motivate and re-energize him as he returned to Florida for practice.
“I knew that the day that I got beat was the day I’d get more excited about going back to training and really hitting it home,” Lyles said, adding, “now we just gotta clean some up and then…bomb drop.”
The bomb dropped today in Lausanne, on a night where conditions were almost perfect for sprinting (83 degrees and still). Lyles has always been an incredible closer, with an unparalleled ability to hold his speed late in the race. Tonight, Lyles married that with a strong start as he got a good jump out of the blocks in his preferred lane 7 and led Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada by a meter-and-a-half coming off the turn.
From there, the outcome was inevitable — no one in this field was going to pass Lyles over the final 100 — and all eyes shifted to the clock. And after Lyles crossed the line, digits appeared on them that have not been seen since the days of Bolt in his prime (if you want to get technical, we’ve never seen these specific digits — Lyles’ race tonight was the first time in history someone has run exactly 19.50 in a 200).
Lyles celebrated by doling out high-fives before unleashing an exuberant scream, pantomiming a juggling act, and swaggering over to the clock to admire his new personal best.
Behind Lyles, Ecuador’s Alex Quinonez set a national record by running 19.87 (#5 on the 2019 world list), while De Grasse faded to third but still managed to run 19.92 — his second sub-20 in as many races after going almost three years without one.
Watch the race below:
— Noah Lyles (@LylesNoah) July 5, 2019
|200 Metres – Men – Diamond Discipline Wind: -0.1 m/s
1 Lyles , Noah USA 19.50 PB
2 Quiñónez , Alex ECU 19.87 PB NR
3 De Grasse , Andre CAN 19.92
4 Brown , Aaron CAN 19.95 PB
5 Guliyev , Ramil TUR 20.01
6 Wilson , Alex SUI 20.29
7 Xie , Zhenye CHN 20.32 SB
8 Siame , Sydney ZAM 20.47
Quick Take: Lyles enters rarefied air
Lyles has flashed big-time talent ever since finishing 4th at the Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old in 2016, and he’s been the dominant force in the men’s 200 for the last two years. But this was a performance the likes of which we had not yet seen from him. He’s now put himself just behind two of the all-time legends of the sport; when the only names ahead of you on a list are Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Michael Johnson, you’ve done something truly special.
Quick Take: Will Lyles still run the 200 only at USAs and Worlds?
In December 2018, Lyles said that his plan was to run the 100/200 double at USAs and Worlds this year. Then in February, Lyles switched paths, saying that he plans on focusing on the 200 only at the major championships in 2019.
When I spoke to Lyles in Boston, he confirmed that was still the plan, and said that there was nothing that he could do in the 200 meters that could change that.
“If I ran 9.75 or something like that [in the 100], it would be time for me and my coach to say all right, are we gonna change the plan up or are we going to keep it how it is?” Lyles said. “There’s nothing in the 200 that would solidify it. It would be things I do in the 100 that would be the game changer going forward.”
At least one notable voice in the sprint world wants Lyles to reconsider. After tonight’s race, NBC sprints analyst and four-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon called on Lyles to “accept the challenge” of the 100.
There’s no doubt in my mind about it. @LylesNoah should be doubling at 100/200m at USA nationals, and at worlds. Accept the challenge of the 100m. The 200m is already yours in Doha.
— Ato Boldon (@AtoBoldon) July 5, 2019
Lyles will go off as the heavy favorite in the 200 in Doha (which is contested after the 100), especially since Norman will likely run the 400 only. He would not be the favorite in the 100 meters — countryman Christian Coleman owns the top two times in the world this year — but would certainly have a shot at gold considering he beat Coleman head-to-head in their last 100m matchup, in Shanghai in May.
That said, in the 100, he’s not the medal lock that he is in the 200. Lyles may have run a personal best of 9.86 in Shanghai, but three other men have broken 9.90 so far this year: Coleman (9.81), NCAA champ Divine Oduduru of Texas Tech/Nigeria (9.86), and reigning world champ Justin Gatlin (9.87). Of course, Lyles may well be capable of going even faster now — that 9.86 came seven weeks ago in his Diamond League opener.
Talk about Lyles race on the world famous LetsRun.com fan forum / messageboard. MB: NOAH MF LYLES 19.50!!!!