The lead up to Noah Lyles’ success on Sunday evening (June 27) didn’t transpire as anticipated.
The 23-year-old did not qualify for the Olympics in the men’s 100-meter dash after finishing seventh with a time of 10.05. He then didn’t finish a race first through the qualifying rounds of the men’s 200-meter.
All said, Lyles did save his best performance for last.
The 2019 200-meter champion finished first in the final race of the U.S. track and field Olympic trials, clocking a world-leading 19.74 to win the men’s 200 meters. Kenny Bednarek ran a second place 19.78 and 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton ran a personal-best 19.84 to also qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
“I don’t think anybody can prepare you for the lion you have to slay at the Olympic trials,” Lyles said, according to USA Today. “This is the hardest team to make and everybody here shows it.”
Lyles says that the year postponement of the Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic has made this the hardest season of his career.
“I think to signify the importance of today, you have to go through the hardships of the year,” Lyles said. “Really, going through the hard parts is what makes this moment so great.”
Lyles’ qualification for the Olympics comes after an already impressive track career. He’s run the world’s four fastest 200-meter times since 2016, though he admits this season’s been a struggle to get back into top form. On Sunday, Lyles proved he was one of the fastest men on earth.
“It was fun again. It was nice, it was real nice,” he said. “To see a little bit of that old Noah but see a lot of new Noah.”
In Tokyo, Noah Lyles will be an Olympic favorite in the men’s 200 meters. An American male has not won the gold in the Olympic 200 since Shawn Crawford in 2004. Lyles, who won the men’s 200M at the 2019 world championships in Doha, will try to put Team USA back on top at his very first Olympics.
“Gosh it sounds nice,” Lyles said after qualifying. “I went after it in 2016 and came up short and ever since then the mindset of becoming an Olympian has been on my mind.”