When he roared around the corner, Lyles could see Knighton ahead of him. The Hayward Field crowd in Eugene, Oregon may have sensed a permanent change in the event, but Lyles did not. He believed — he knew — he wouldn’t let Knighton take his status as America’s 200-meter king, at least not on Sunday. Lyles thought, “I’ll catch him.
The US Championships provided an eventful preview of next month’s world championships, also in Eugene – the first to be contested on US soil. Sydney McLaughlin pushed further into the 400 hurdle boundary. Athing Mu survived a rare challenge and showed off his standard 800 meter brilliance. Fred Kerley cemented his world class status in short sprints. Devon Allen, wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, has reached the world championships. Sha’Carri Richardson was stunned by her failure to qualify for the 100 or 200 world championships.
Perhaps the most electrifying moment was Lyles’ refusal to let Knighton take his crown. Knighton looked set to make the race a passing of the torch. With his wicked finishing speed, bravado and lyrics, Lyles has sparked a rivalry out of it.
Lyles chased, caught and passed Knighton to claim his third straight U.S. Championship in the 200m, beating Knighton’s 19.69 seconds. At the finish line, Lyles pointed Knighton’s face at the clock which showed his time of 19.67, smiling as he broke the tape. He didn’t just keep his title. He boosted football.
Lyles, 24, has lost just two 200 finals as a professional, a Diamond League race against Michael Norman and the Tokyo Olympics final, where he won bronze. Many thought Knighton would make it three on Sunday. He destroyed Bolt’s under-20 record in the 200m. In a small meet at LSU this spring, Knighton clocked a stunning 19.49 seconds, a time only three men have beaten — and 0.01 seconds better than Lyles’ best.
How Noah Lyles found peace after emotional Olympics
Lyles and Knighton race for Adidas, and Lyles was quick to complement and support his young rival. But Lyles’ charismatic nature may hide his competitiveness. He saw Knighton coming, and he didn’t blink.
“When it’s time to line up, I’ll get it,” Lyles said two weeks ago when meeting in New York. “I know it, automatically. I will always be ready.
In the first 100 meters, Lyles fell behind half the field, including his brother Josephus, who had a career-best fifth-place finish in 19.93. But he could tell he had retained more than his competitors. He didn’t panic. Even when he took too long a stride in the corner, he recovered with the next step.
“It got to this point where I knew I was going to get past it,” Lyles said. “I knew the race was over.
Lyles raced past the peloton, leveled Knighton in the final 30 yards and passed him in the final 10 – so sure of his victory that he glanced at Knighton and pointed to the clock as he crossed the line.
“I’m pointing the finger at all these people who have doubted me all year and all of last year,” Lyles later said. “Anyone who keeps saying, ‘He’s out of the picture.’ Even NBC doesn’t want to talk about me anymore. It’s cool, though. I’ll let you know. I’ll check you, every time.
Once he crossed, Lyles found a camera and shouted “Always fast!” as he raised his watch. Lyles lined up on the track next to Knighton and third-placed Kerley, who qualified for the 200 two days after running the fastest 100 in the world this year, for an interview with NBC.
“I do what it takes to win,” Lyles said. “Erriyon got the better of me on the turn. I don’t worry about that. I saw that he had reached his maximum speed and I said, “Mine is faster. I said, ‘I’ll catch it. It’s just gonna take all the rest of the 100. ‘ That’s what I did.”
The interviewer turned to Knighton and asked him about his expectations for the world championships.
“Come back and win,” he said. “The work is not finished. It’s never over. »
Knighton walked away, and Lyles shouted in his direction, “Never finished!”
“He just picked me up,” Knighton said later. “He got the better of me this race. That’s it.”
McLaughlin, 22, continued to revamp what’s possible while clearing 10 obstacles on one lap of the track. On Saturday night, she reset her world record for the second time since grabbing it at the USA tryouts last summer. That night, with record holder Dalilah Muhammad running in the lane beside hers, McLaughlin lowered it to 51.90 seconds. At the Olympics, McLaughlin smashed her record in 51.46.
In Saturday’s final, she pushed it to 51.41. What stood out was not his speed, at least not more than usual, but the jarring lack of tension required by McLaughlin. Ahead of his one-acre competitors with Muhammad taking him to the world championships, McLaughlin crossed the finish line, breaking his record almost by accident.
“I knew it was going to go fast,” she said. “I looked at the weather, and I was really happy with it, to be able to slowly progress to lower and lower times. There are still things I can work on. I think there is a bit more in the tank there. Hopefully when the time comes we can just empty it completely.
The only reason McLaughlin can’t be considered the most dominant woman in the United States is Mu, another double gold medalist from Tokyo. She repeated as the US 800-meter champion atypically: It looked like she had to try.
Mu is possibly the best runner in the world at any distance. It usually destroys the terrain. On the home stretch on Sunday, Ajee Wilson pushed her – and even passed her with around 30 yards to go. Mu receives few challenges, but she has proven that she can withstand them. She regained the lead and edged Wilson, 1:57.16 to 1:57.23.
“I’m glad I fought,” Mu said. “I’m glad I still have my legs to come back and run.”
A close call for Mu counts as a surprise, but he pales in championship shock. Three days after failing to escape the 100 preliminaries, Richardson finished in 22.47 seconds in a 200 semifinal and failed to reach the final. A year after missing the Olympics after testing positive for marijuana in the US trials, Richardson will not compete at the world championships for the baffling reason that she simply wasn’t fast enough.
Two weeks ago, Richardson won the 200 meters at the New York Grand Prix in 22 seconds flat and ran the 100m in 10.85, two performances that would have propelled her to the world championships.
I know what I’m saying lol you can’t clown me 😂😂😂 I didn’t make it no excuses You don’t deserve my story 😘NEXT!! https://t.co/SWRYyAnA2f
— Sha’Carri Richardson (@itskerrii) June 26, 2022
It’s hard to know what was wrong. Richardson addressed reporters in Eugene only to berate them and did not answer questions or explain her performance.
“When you’re doing interviews, you should all respect athletes more,” she said. “… Athletes deserve way more respect than when you all just threw cameras in their faces. Understand how an athlete works and then ask your questions.
His absence paved the way for Kentucky’s Abby Steiner to become a potential superstar. Steiner won the 200 in 21.77 seconds, 0.03 faster than the NCAA record she set this month to win the college title. “At the end of the college season, a lot of people put limits on you, mean you’re exhausted,” Steiner said.
Gabby Thomas, the reigning U.S. 200-meter champion and Olympic bronze medalist, finished eighth and tearfully revealed to reporters that she suffered a Grade 2 hamstring tear two weeks ago. “I had worked so hard to be here, and it was all taken in a second,” Thomas said. “I did the best I could.”
The final day was down to the 110 hurdles, where Allen expected to challenge the world record. Two weeks ago in New York, Allen ran it in 12.84 seconds, the third fastest time ever and 0.04 behind the record. Sweetening the deal for TV executives, Allen is a two-time Olympian and former Oregon wide receiver who signed with the Eagles after wowing them on the Ducks’ pro day.
Daniel Roberts didn’t care. He beat Allen and NCAA champion Trey Cunningham in 13.03 seconds. Allen finished third by a hair in 13.09 which sent him to the world championships.
No one has made the team more spectacularly than Brandon Miller of Texas A&M in the 800 meters. Behind champion Bryce Hoppel, Miller dove over the line to edge two-time Olympian Clayton Murphy for the third and final spot on the world championship team. “I just wanted to do it for everyone who believed in me,” Miller said in an interview with NBC. “I wanted it so badly.”
Miller will qualify for the world championships next month, where Lyles and Knighton will be the headliners. Knighton’s future will appeal to a global audience. But he still hasn’t beaten Lyles in the final, and Lyles plans to keep it that way. He was asked on Sunday what he expected in July.
“Win,” he said smiling. “What else?”