Noah Lyles breaks Michael Johnson’s American record; U.S. sweeps world 200m

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For Noah Lyles, this season wasn’t merely about improving his bronze-medal finish from the Olympics. It wasn’t only about suppressing 18-year-old phenom Erriyon Knighton, whose electrifying 19.49-second run on a Saturday afternoon in April caused Lyles to stop driving, turn around from his dinner plans (Thai food) and dive back into his craft.

From the start, it was about running 19.31 seconds in the 200m (or faster) to break Michael Johnson‘s American record. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Johnson ran 19.32 seconds in golden shoes in the 200m final, lowering his world record by an astonishing .34 of a second in one of the most famous sprints in history.

When Lyles crossed the finish line in the world track and field championships 200m final in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday night, the clock read 19.32. Lyles, whose previous personal best was 19.50, turned to the crowd and noticed another roar, a supplement to the one moments earlier reacting to his blowout victory.

Lyles knew something was up. He peered to another scoreboard showing what the fans had noticed — his winning time changed to 19.31, the number that he had worked for all season. (It’s common in track and field for initial, unofficial finishing times to change slightly as electronic timing processes.)

“I didn’t want it to say 32,” Lyles said. “I wanted my own time. Nobody wants to share a record.

“All me and my coach have been talking about was like, ‘We’re going after that record.'”

Lyles, 25, repeated as world champion and led a U.S. sweep of the men’s 200m medals with Kenny Bednarek (19.77) and Knighton (19.80). That came 15 minutes after Jamaican Shericka Jackson won the women’s 200m in 21.45 seconds, the second-fastest time in history behind Florence Griffith-Joyner‘s world record of 21.34 from the 1988 Olympics. On Her Turf has more on the women’s 200m here.

TRACK WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster | Key Events

For the men’s 200m, only Jamaicans Usain Bolt (19.19) and Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster than Lyles, who had been expected to take gold at the Tokyo Games.

Lyles said the difference between 2021 and 2022 was that he put no pressure on himself this year.

“You can go through a dark storm and come out of it better than you were before,” he said.

The final was billed as a showdown between budding rivals Lyles and Knighton, but Lyles put it away before the straightaway by running the best curve of his life.

“It was always there. I was just waiting for it to hit,” said Lyles, who didn’t run the 100m, his complementary event, this year because he was focused on Johnson’s record (and, to a degree, beating Knighton). “It was always going to come, as soon as I got the start I wanted and was able to get a race where I get my [first] 100 [meters].”

Johnson, at Hayward Field working for the BBC, went on the track and hugged Lyles, whose dad, Kevin, raced against Johnson in the 1990s.

“I knew that he was going to run faster than 19.32 some day,” said Johnson, who met Lyles for the first time. “To be honest, when you’ve held the world record, you don’t really focus on the national record. … For Noah, I don’t think he really cares about the American record. He wants a world record. It might be within his reach.”

Bednarek came back from a broken toe to repeat his silver from Tokyo.

Knighton, fourth in Tokyo, became the youngest individual sprint medalist in world championships history, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org. Knighton was expected to lead off the turn but did not, in part because he mistakenly hit the side of a starting block with his right foot reacting to the gun.

“I was on the podium,” he said, “so I can’t be mad.”

Three other Americans swept the 100m medals last Saturday — Fred KerleyMarvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell.

In the women’s 200m, Jackson became the only person to win a world medal in the 100m, 200m and 400m in their career. Afterward, she responded “definitely” to a pair of questions — did you think you would run that fast? And, can you run faster?

She found redemption from the Olympic 200m, when she was eliminated in the heats due to a lackluster effort.

“Last year was a disaster,” she said. “I wanted redemption.”

Countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took silver, four days after winning her fifth world title in the 100m at age 35. Fraser-Pryce, who already has the same number of Olympic medals as Bolt (eight), will match Bolt at 14 world championships medals with a 4x100m relay medal on Saturday.

Abby Steiner was the top American in fifth. The U.S. got zero medals out of the women’s flat sprints (100m, 200m and 400m) for the first time in world championships history.

In non-finals Thursday, Christian Taylor, a six-time gold medalist between the Olympics and worlds, failed to make Saturday’s triple jump final. Taylor, a 32-year-old who missed the Tokyo Games after rupturing an Achilles, was 18th in qualifying.

Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir of Kenya headlined the qualifiers into Saturday’s men’s 800m final. All four Americans, including injured reigning world champion Donavan Brazier, were previously eliminated in the first round.

Olympic champion Athing Mu advanced to Friday’s women’s 800m semifinals along with countrywomen Raevyn Rogers (Olympic bronze medalist) and Ajeé Wilson (two-time world bronze medalist).

Advancing to Sunday’s men’s 5000m final: reigning Olympic champions in the 1500m (Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen), 5000m (Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei) and 10,000m (Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega).

Worlds continue Friday with five finals, including the men’s and women’s 400m and the women’s 400m hurdles with Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Sydney McLaughlin.

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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