Noah Lyles of USA celebrates after winning 100-m race (Image: AP)
All the brashness and bravado melted away when the gold medal finally went around Noah Lyles’ neck Monday night at the world championships.
The 100-meter winner doubled over and broke into tears at the ceremony, held the day after he defied the experts and earned the title “World’s Fastest Man” with a victory in what has traditionally been his second-best race.
After Lyles composed himself, he stood up and took a deep bow to the crowd amassed at the medals plaza set up outside the stadium.
The entire moment has hit him quicker than he ever anticipated. Much quicker than winning his back-to-back world 200 titles.
“I’m trying to get the right words — this is the fastest medal that’s sunk in the quickest,” Lyles told The Associated Press in an interview earlier Monday about his win. “This one, it’s definitely like, ‘Title of fastest man of the world. Title of the 100-meter champion. Running the world-leading time. Grabbing the medal.’ That is the one I’ve been reaching for, for so long — and I got it.”
The belief that he was indeed the fastest, now that’s always been present. This victory simply validated it to everyone else.
“It’s just now everybody believes it, because I have a championship to go with it,” Lyles said. “But I’ve always known that I’m the fastest man in the world, which is why it’s so hard for everybody.”
Lyles finished the race Sunday night in 9.83 seconds to edge Letsile Tebogo, the 20-year-old from Botswana, and bronze medalist Zharnel Hughes of Britain.
Tebogo and Hughes were with Lyles on the medal stand and comforted him when he broke down. Lyles has been open and honest about the mental health struggles he’s endured, especially in the post-COVID atmosphere of the Tokyo Olympics.
“(My mental health has) definitely been growing stronger and stronger since 2021,” Lyles said. “Every year I feel that I’ve been able to continuously add on to layers of security, I guess you could call it, or just good health.
“It’s really put a perspective on how I’ve been able to view things.”
Lyles has a chance for the first men’s 100-200 double at the worlds or the Olympics since Usain Bolt accomplished the feat in 2016 at the Rio de Janeiro Games. Bolt accomplished the sprint double six times at the Olympics and worlds.
The 26-year-old Lyles has a 200 time in mind, too — 19.10 seconds. That would break Bolt’s record mark of 19.19 in 2009. That time may not be achieved in Budapest, but Lyles feels confident that someday his name will be at the top of the list.
He already possesses the American 200 record after breaking Michael Johnson’s longstanding record with a time of 19.31 seconds at the worlds last summer. Lyles’ plan is to lower the mark, with round one kicking off Wednesday.
“I’m going to run all out and I know that I’m going to (get a personal best). I know that for certain,” Lyles said. “I just have to continuously trust my coach, trust my training, trust my medical (team) to get me prepared for each day.
“As I go out onto the track, I’m going to say, ‘All right, I’m ready. This is the moment and I’ve been waiting for it.’”
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