Noah Lyles’ US Olympic track and field tests hadn’t gone as expected until Sunday night.
Lyles failed to qualify for the Men’s 100m Olympics after finishing seventh with a pedestrian time of 10.05. Then Lyles never finished first through the men’s 200 meter qualifying laps.
However, the 2019 200-meter world champion saved his best performance for the end.
Lyles made sure he crossed the finish line first in the final race of the US Athletics Olympics. Lyles ran a world top of 19.74 to win the men’s 200 meters. Kenny Bednarek ran a season best of 19.78 into second place and 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton ran a personal best of 19.84 to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
“I don’t think anyone can prepare you for the lion you’ll have to kill in the Olympic trials,” Lyles said after qualifying for Tokyo. “This is the toughest team to make and everyone here shows it.”
MORE:Sydney McLaughlin breaks world record in the 400-meter hurdles and wins US Olympic victory
HUNTING GOLD:Sign up to receive Team USA Olympics news delivered to your inbox
Lyles admitted that this season was the toughest of his career as the Olympics were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic and he had to go through the arduous physical and mental battle to get back to his peak.
“I think to understand the importance of today is to face the rigors of the year,” Lyles said. “Really, going through the hard parts is what makes this moment so great.”
The moment was good for the US sprinter. He has run the four fastest 200 meter times in the world since 2016, but admittedly, it has been a struggle for him this season to get back in top form. However, Vintage Lyles was on display at Hayward Field on Sunday.
“It was fun again. It was nice, it was really nice, ”Lyles said. “To see a bit of that old Noah, but to see a lot of new Noah.”
Lyles’ best time in the world immediately made him an Olympic favorite over the men’s 200 meters in Tokyo. An American man has not won a gold medal in the 200s since Shawn Crawford in the 2004 Olympics. Lyles, who won the men’s 200 at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, has the chance to win Team USA at his very first Olympic Games.
“Gosh, that sounds good,” Lyles said at his first Olympics. “I followed it in 2016 and fell short and since then I’ve had the mindset of becoming an Olympian in my head.”