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‘Medals first, records second’ as Lyles eyes 100m/200m world double

By AFP - Aug 08,2023 - Last updated at Aug 08,2023

PARIS — Noah Lyles says his priority is “medals first, records second” as he bids to become only the fifth man to achieve the 100/200 metres double at the World Athletics Championships.

The 26-year-old American is seeking a third successive 200m world crown in Budapest later this month where he will face stiff competition from teenage compatriot Erriyon Knighton.

He is also looking at wresting the 100m title from fellow American Fred Kerley and then teaming up with him to win the 4x100m relay.

With a best time of 19.31 seconds in the 200m, Lyles is the third fastest man in history though still some way off the world record of 19.19sec posted by Usain Bolt — who completed the world sprint double three times — in 2009.

“I already have gold in the 200 and 4x100 so I just definitely want to add another gold medal to that,” Lyles told news agencies in an interview.

“It is medals first then records second. You can always grab a world record somewhere else during the year.

“My fastest time is so low it all depends on the right weather, right competition and right day.

“I am going for the gold and if something amazing comes from that even better.”

He will need all his nerve and speed to see off 19-year-old Knighton if he is to retain his 200m title.

“He’s a kid and he’s stepped into the world of professional athletics early, earlier than I did,” said Lyles.

“When I first arrived I was ready to take off everybody’s head.

“Last year he got a taste of what it is like to be at the top in the months leading up to the US championships. You have a target on your back and it can be a very heavy burden to hold if you are not prepared for it.”

 

‘Dead in a day’

 

Lyles says Knighton’s relative rawness — even though he finished fourth in the Tokyo Olympics 200m final in 2021 — did not serve him well last year. 

“Being his second year as a professional athlete I don’t know if he was able to handle it,” said Lyles, who had Knighton back in third when he retained his 200m title last year.

“I have been holding it [the number one tag] for a very long time and I knew it was something I would not allow others to hold. I treat him like I do everybody else.

“Some people say ‘why do you do that to the kid he is only 18’ but as soon as you enter the professional world you are a professional.

“That goes for everybody whether it is him, Fred Kerley or Christian Coleman. When we step on the track it is a different mindset.”

Whilst some like to build up the image of a great rivalry building between him and Knighton, Lyles dismisses the suggestion. 

“I see rivalries as almost lazy, it is the easiest form to conceptualise,” he said.

“But in track there are so many of us that to simplify it to rivalry diminishes it. There is great story telling that can be told.

“Why concern it with two people when we have a field of eight, who all have stories to tell? Rivalries are fun but it can be dead in a day.”

Lyles cuts a very different figure to the one who admitted he had suffered from depression in 2020.

“I am in a lot better spot than 2021 and 2020 for sure,” he said.

“My biggest issue is being frustrated at what I want to see happen in the track world. It is not so much my own struggles and mental state which is a good sign.”

 

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