01 November, 2019

Noah Lyles: Legend In The Making

  • © IAAF Diamond League

With three Diamond Trophies in the last two seasons, American sprinting sensation Noah Lyles is a Diamond League legend in the making, and he proved it with a series of staggering performances in 2019.

The clock showed 19.74 when Noah Lyles crossed the line in Brussels two months ago, but it was the last digit that really mattered. Lyles' time - one for which many a sprinter would give their left arm - was neither a meeting record nor a personal best. It did not put his name in the record books. What it did do was ensure that Lyles had another Diamond Trophy to stick on his mantlepiece. Diamond Trophy Number Four. 

At the tender age of 22, Lyles has already chalked up more Diamond League titles than many top athletes have managed in ten years since the series' inauguration in 2010. With four titles - three of them in the 200m - he is more than halfway towards the record seven titles held by Renaud Lavillenie and Christian Taylor. His triumph in Brussels came just a week after securing the 100m Diamond Trophy in Zurich, making him one of a select few athletes ever to have won a Diamond League double in a single season.

Lyles, in short, is a sprinting sensation. He has been ever since he burst onto the international scene in 2017, but this year was the year in which he confirmed himself as a potential great of track and field. Whisper it, but the young American is a legend in the making. 

Just a month after picking up Diamond Trophy number four in Brussels, the wider world sat up and took notice of Lyles as he secured his first championship title at the IAAF World Championships in Doha. His exploits earned inevitable comparisons with a certain Jamaican superstar. Though he sensibly tends to brush off the billing as the next Usain Bolt, Lyles is clearly not afraid of the challenge. He has already set his sights on a triple gold medal at Tokyo 2020, and after just three seasons on the circuit, he can boast of four times as many Diamond Trophies as Bolt. 

He is also not just a good sprinter. Aside from his sporting prowess, Lyles has also tried his hand at modelling and has a natural talent for drawing. His rapping isn't half bad, either, as he showed alongside fellow USATF star Sandi Morris for Weltklasse Zurich this year.

Yet Lyles, for all his self-assured flair, keeps two feet on the ground when he is not tearing up the track. Earlier this year, he penned a moving tribute to his mother Keisha for Spikes magazine, reflecting on a tough childhood in which his family were unable to afford $11 shoes from Walmart.

These days, the young Floridian is more likely to be seen in a sharp red suit than a pair of $11 shoes, but he has not forgotten his roots. Following his triumph in Doha, he shared a tender moment with his mother before speaking eloquently again of the trials of his early life. 

His mother and family have been at Lyles' side throughout his fledgling career, and were cheering him on in front of the television when he made an explosive arrival on the international scene at the Shanghai Diamond League in 2017. The youngster ran a PB of 19.90 that night, and from that moment on, his name has loomed large on the Diamond League circuit. At the end of that season, he clocked 20.00 in Zurich to win the 200m final and pick up his first Diamond Trophy, and he hasn't looked back since. 

The following year, he broke meeting records in Doha and Monaco and bettered his own PB four times as he rampaged to an imperious defence of his 200m title. Come 2019, Lyles was the undisputed man to beat in the sprints, and very few managed to beat him. After improving his 100m PB to 19.86 in Lausanne, Lyles then set a new 200m meeting record in Lausanne before waltzing his way to a Diamond Trophy double in Zurich and Lausanne. 

If Lyles truly is on the road to Bolt-like greatness, then next year could be a chapter which eclipses even the dizzying heights of 2019. Like all the top stars, his sights will be set firmly on Tokyo. Yet aside from the showpiece event, 2020 will also bring the bread and butter of another Diamond League season, and a shot at Diamond Trophy number five for Noah Lyles.