Noah Lyles still has a ways to go to challenge Usain Bolt‘s 200m world record, but over the next month he can finish a campaign that rivals Bolt’s greatest seasons.
Lyles headlines the Diamond League Finals in Brussels on Friday. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage at 12:20 p.m. ET. NBCSN airs coverage at 11 p.m.
The 22-year-old phenom can break his tie with Bolt for the most times breaking 19.8 seconds in the 200m in one year.
Bolt did it four times in 2009 (actually broke 19.7 four times), when he lowered the world record to 19.19 seconds. Lyles broke 19.8 in four meets in 2018 and is now on four occurrences in 2019 with three weeks before the world championships. Perhaps Bolt would have done it more often, but he was known for keeping his races to a minimum.
Lyles has shown little restraint, dipping down to the 100m to challenge (and beat) Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman. He’s lost just one outdoor 200m since placing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials out of high school.
He is a huge favorite at his first worlds in Doha, given his 19.50 clocking on July 5, the eighth-fastest in history and .37 faster than anybody in Friday’s field has recorded this year.
Lyles could be in for something special in Brussels. At last year’s Diamond League Finals (in Zurich), he had his most impressive performance of the year, a 19.67 into a slight headwind.
In Lyles’ last 200m, in Paris on Aug. 24, he broke Bolt’s 200m meet record and then Instagrammed, “Bolt who?” The accompanying photo had Lyles holding an index finger to his mouth in a shushing gesture.
Here are the Brussels entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):
11:10 a.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:23 p.m. — Women’s Discus
1:02 — Women’s Long Jump
1:24 — Women’s Pole Vault
1:45 — Women’s High Jump
2:03 — Men’s 400m
2:12 — Women’s 100m
2:18 — Men’s Discus
2:20 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:37 — Men’s 200m
2:45 — Women’s 5000m
2:46 — Men’s Triple Jump
3:11 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:18 — Men’s 1500m
3:33 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
3:41 — Women’s 800m
3:53 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
Here are five events to watch:
Women’s Pole Vault — 1:24 p.m. ET
The third meeting among the last two Olympic champions (Katerina Stefanidi and Jenn Suhr) and the Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris this season, but none of the three were winners at the previous stops. Six different women have won Diamond League stops, and Suhr, who has the best clearance this year, isn’t one of them. Favorite status for worlds is there for the taking.
Men’s 400m — 2:03 p.m. ET
Michael Norman, world’s fastest man this Olympic cycle, races for the first time since suffering his first 400m defeat in years at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July. The man who ended that streak, Fred Kerley, is also in the field. In fact, Brussels could be statement meet for the U.S. men. Norman, Kerley and Nathan Strother could sweep the 400m on Friday and at worlds with Olympic champion and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk still sidelined after his 2017 knee tear. Should any of them win Friday, Vernon Norwood gets added to the 400m team for worlds.
Men’s 200m — 2:37 p.m. ET
Nobody here has ever beaten Lyles. It includes surprise 2017 World champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey and Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, but Lyles was absent from both of those major meets. Some of the other men with the highest ceilings for worlds — Coleman (who rarely races 200m) and Divine Oduduru and Kenny Bednarek, who have been slow since their NCAA seasons ended — are not in Brussels.
Women’s 5000m — 2:45 p.m. ET
A meeting of the world 5000m champion (Kenyan Hellen Obiri) and the world-record holders in the mile (Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan) and the 3000m steeplechase (Beatrice Chepkoech). Chepkoech is an underdog and an unknown, having finished just two 5000m races in her career (and none this year). Obiri beat Hassan in their four head-to-heads, including the last two that turned out to be the two fastest 5000m races in history when accounting for the top four finishers.
Men’s Triple Jump — 2:46 p.m. ET
Will Claye, who took silver or bronze behind Christian Taylor at two Olympics and two world championships, has a chance to draw nearly even with Taylor in their all-time head-to-head in the triple jump. Taylor currently leads 25-24, but Claye is having the better summer and bettered him in Paris two weeks ago for his first Diamond League win in five years. Taylor once dominated, but four different men have won the four Diamond League events this season, and all of them are in Brussels.
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