DES MOINES — For everyone applauding Noah Lyles this season, and there are many, one of his most famous onlookers still wants to see the American answer one question on the track.
“Last season he was doing a lot of good things, this season he has started off good,” Usain Bolt said Thursday, according to The New York Times. “But as I said, it all comes down to the championship. Is he confident to come into a race after running three races and show up? For me he has shown that he has talent, but when the championship comes, we will see what happens.”
Bolt is right. Lyles, though he is the fourth-fastest 200m runner in history, has never competed at a global championship. How he will hold up through the rounds in a foreign setting, like Doha in two months, is one of his big unknowns.
“Sounds about right to me, sounds like my thoughts exactly,” Lyles said when shown the Bolt Q&A after winning his 200m first round heat at nationals on Saturday (the semifinals and final are Sunday). “It’s why I decided to run one event this year.”
Lyles chose not to race the 100m this week, even though he is ranked second in the world in the event this year. He didn’t want to take any energy away from making the world team by finishing in the top three in the 200m. The double can wait until the Olympic year.
Lyles was fourth in the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m out of high school, just missing that three-man Rio team. He was an overwhelming favorite to make the 2017 World Championships team but withdrew during that season’s USATF Outdoor Championships with a hamstring injury. There were no outdoor worlds in 2018, when Lyles went undefeated at 200m for a second straight season.
Lyles and Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest 100m sprinter since Bolt retired in 2017, are expected to go head-to-head on Sunday in the most anticipated duel of the four-day meet. Coleman is already on the team in the 100m.
Lyles said his season has gone to plan, from running 19.50 last month to coloring his hair half-gray/silver in honor of a Dragon Ball Z character Goku on Saturday. He already has designs to go full gray/silver for worlds in Doha.
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