American sprinter Noah Lyles has come a long way since winning 200m gold at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Nanjing 2014, with that victory in China seemingly putting him on the fast track to success.
Following his YOG title in 2014, Lyles was crowned world junior champion over 100m in 2016 and then made the step up to the senior stage in 2017 at the age of just 19. Despite his tender years, the young American seemed undaunted by the challenge and finished the season with two victories over 200m on the prestigious Diamond League circuit.
And in 2018, the sprint star’s stock has risen either further with a string of eye-catching performances. In addition to Diamond League victories in Doha, Eugene, Lausanne, Monaco and Zurich, Lyles repeatedly smashed his personal bests over 100m and 200m, eventually clocking 9.88 seconds and 19.65 seconds respectively – the latter being the fastest time recorded by anyone in the world this year.
Here, the 21-year-old explains how he has gone from YOG champion to the world’s best in just four years…
Competing at the Youth Olympic Games definitely inspired me to the point that it made me want to go on to run at the Olympic Games one day. I’d already competed at a World Junior Championships the same year [as Nanjing 2014], so I felt comfortable in the atmosphere, and I just wanted to get to the highest level. I want to be Olympic champion, not just the Youth Olympic champion, so winning that title in Nanjing just increased my hunger and my drive.
The YOG definitely puts you on the right path, getting you familiar with how things work [at big events]. For some people, going to a call room before a race might be unheard of, or they might not even know what a call room is! So going to an event like this helps prepare you and gives you an understanding of how the system works when you get to a higher level, like the Olympic Games or the World Championships.
When I went to the YOG, I learnt that everyone is pretty much the same no matter where they come from. When you go onto the global stage, you can be scared of all the people you’re competing against because they’re different and you think they have a different mindset. But everybody trains the same, everybody wakes up the same, everybody goes to sleep the same. So there’s no reason to be scared or frightened because of somebody you don’t know from all the way across the world.
The YOG were really set up well for young people. We got to interact with athletes from other countries, go on tours and things like that. I actually made a lot of friends and I still race against a lot of the same guys. I remember we had these cool little things [Yoggers] that you could connect to share your details whenever you met someone. So that made it easy to keep in touch. We also collected a lot of pins. That was probably the coolest thing; I had tons of them!
I definitely would say to people going to Buenos Aires to enjoy your time, try to meet new people and interact with different activities. You obviously want to do well, but at the same time you want to be relaxed and have fun.
The Olympic Games are always the biggest target. Everybody wants to be an Olympian and everybody wants to win Olympic medals. I’m definitely putting it on my list of things I want to achieve. I’m really just trying to be the dominant figure in track and field. Every time I step on the track, I want people to say, « He’s the guy who is going to win this”.
For information and resources about the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, visit Athlete365’s ‘Get Ready Pack’ here