DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Noah Lyles is counting down the days until he can kick back and read comic books, record some music he’s written, spend money on fashionable clothes and do whatever other non-track things come to mind.
The home screen on the American sprinter’s phone already tells him it’s about that time: “ I am the 2019 200 world champion” greets him when he glances down. But there’s one more event for him at the world championships _ the 4×100 relay _ before a four-week break to slow down.
Then, a new mantra will appear on his phone for him to stare at: Win the 100m and 200m at the Tokyo Olympics.
He wants to live up to the one-word tattoo written across his rib cage — “ICON.”
His win in the 200m at worlds started him on the path. His success in Tokyo would only serve to send the 22-year-old even further on his way.
“They are going to say I’m an icon,” Lyles confidently proclaimed in an interview with The Associated Press.
With no Usain Bolt around, Lyles is being trumpeted as the next big thing in track and field. Mention it to him, though, and he rolls his eyes. He knows track is searching for another superstar and he’s happy to help fill the role. But it will happen on his time, not anyone else’s schedule. It’s why he didn’t run the 100m at worlds this season.
He’s taking things slow to be fast.
“If you want to see me do great things, you have to let me do it the way I have to do it,” said Lyles, who signed long-term deal with Adidas in 2016.
Some of his biggest rivals are U.S. teammate Christian Coleman along with Andre De Grasse of Canada. Like Lyles, they plan to run the 100m-200m at the Tokyo Games. Coleman won the 100m at worlds before skipping the 200m, while De Grasse finished behind Lyles in the 200m and earned a bronze in the 100m.
At the top of Lyles’ to-do list in the offseason will be to improve his starts. He can get away with a slower initial burst in the 200m — he runs such a smooth, tight curve — but not so much in the 100m. He’s going to back to the drawing board.
“People underestimate how hard it is to change a start,” Lyles said. “There are so many quick movements in a start and there are probably a list of 10 things that you have to make sure you’re doing to make sure it’s good. But in your mind, you can only focus on maybe one — two at the most. It comes down to muscle memory.”
Check back on his progress in, say, a month or so.
Because soon he will be on vacation mode. He’s looking forward to really doing nothing. Maybe a trip to Bermuda and then working on another hip-hop album (he’s written numerous songs over a long season). He will definitely read some comic books, watch some anime movies and build things with Legos (anything with a “Star Wars” theme.)
Shopping trips are on his agenda, too. He’s into high-end fashion these days, with boots, jackets and rings catching his eye.
It keeps him motivated to keep on winning.
“Luckily, I have been funding my (shopping) habit by winning races,” Lyles cracked. “But that bill adds up quickly. I had to stop myself in July from buying clothes for about three months so I could say I don’t have a problem.”
He has no problem being an entertainer. He loves the spotlight, which is good since he’s in it so much. He won a national title at 200m in July by holding off Coleman.
“I like to have fun,” said Lyles, who was born in Gainesville, Fla., and went to high school in Alexandria, Va. “I enjoy what I do, and I want people to enjoy watching.”
He’s setting lofty plans for Tokyo — not one, not two, but three gold medals (counting the 4x100m relay).
“You might think that’s crazy with Christian out there, and he’s putting down some good times,” Lyles said. “There’s nothing in my mind that says I can’t get on the line and do the same thing. I’m going to get three golds. I keep saying that to myself.”
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