American sprinter Noah Lyles has come a long way since winning gold at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Nanjing 2014. Here, he tells olympic.org about his #YOGJourney and his goals for the future.
With Usain Bolt’s reign as the king of track and field coming to an end following his retirement last year, a new generation of sprint stars are vying for his crown. The latest to put his name in the frame is Noah Lyles – the American who won the 200m gold medal at the YOG Nanjing 2014.
Now aged 20, Lyles has started the 2018 athletics season in blistering fashion, running a meeting record and personal best of 19.83 seconds to win the IAAF Diamond League event in Doha (Qatar) before running the joint-fastest time in the world this year as he clocked 19.69s in Eugene (USA).
Lyles, who was also crowned world junior champion over 100m in 2016, had previously run under 20 seconds only once before, when he ran 19.90s to win last year’s Shanghai Diamond League, but his early-season form has now seen him stake his claim to Bolt’s sprinting throne.
Here, he tells olympic.org all about his #YOGJourney from Nanjing…
Congratulations on a great start to the season. How pleased are you with your performances so far in 2018?
“Thank you, I'm very pleased actually. These are the times that I thought I'd be running, but I didn't think it was going to come this soon. I thought I was going to be running this fast closer to July, so I'm very excited. I'm very pleased. I'm hoping I'm the fastest all season.”
You have set two personal bests already – what do you put that improvement down to?
“Just staying healthy and making sure my body is strong enough this year that it wouldn't get injured. Last year, I got hurt mostly due to my body producing fast times and it also not being able to handle those fast times. My muscles started breaking on me. After healing and recovering and trying to strengthen what was weak, I now feel that my body can handle these fast times.”
How difficult was it to have your season interrupted by injury last year?
“I had a two-centimetre tear in my hamstring after one of my fastest races last year. It was pretty hard to take because I thought I would be able to come back for the US trials [for the 2017 IAAF World Championships], but my body just wasn’t ready. I then had to watch everybody else running that summer, and it was hard. But, if anything, it made me even hungrier [for success].”
What are your targets for the rest of the year?
“Time-wise, there's really no goal. I'm not going to be surprised if I run 19.4 or 19.3 this season. I'm really just trying to be the dominant figure in track and field this year. Every time I step on the track, I want people to say, ‘He's the guy who is going to win this’.”
Looking further ahead, presumably the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be a huge target for you?
“Yes, for sure. 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.”
You’ve already competed on an Olympic stage, at the YOG Nanjing 2014 – what was that experience like for you?
“It was 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!”
Was it inspiring to look up and see the Olympic rings while you were competing?
“It definitely inspired me to the point that it made me want to go on to compete at the Olympic Games one day. I’d already run at a World Junior Championships before that year, so I felt comfortable in the atmosphere, but I just wanted to get to the higher level. I want to be Olympic champion, not just the Youth Olympic champion, so it just increased my hunger and my drive.”