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.

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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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Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.