Noah Lyles

Michael Norman edges Noah Lyles in Rome 200m

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Noah Lyles‘ undefeated 200m record this Olympic cycle is gone. So is his unblemished head-to-head history with friendly rival Michael Norman.

Norman won a duel between the 2016 World Junior Championships roommates, clocking a personal-best 19.70 seconds at a Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday night.

Norman, the world’s fastest 400m man since the Rio Olympics, got a jump on Lyles off the start and never relinquished that lead. Lyles closed in the final straight but crossed in 19.72 for his first outdoor 200m loss since the 2016 Olympic trials.

“I still have a lot of technical issues with myself, like: be patient,” Norman said, according to meet organizers, after taking .14 off his previous best and beating Lyles for the first time in four tries dating to 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org. “I did not have any expectations coming into this race. I just want to improve myself and not chase a time.”

Lyles and Norman finished fourth and fifth in those Rio trials, just missing the Olympic team, but beamed for performing so well as 18-year-olds. Lyles turned pro two weeks later. Norman matriculated at USC, where he focused on the 400m.

While the outgoing Lyles gained more attention for lighting up the international Diamond League circuit, the calmer Norman finished his NCAA career last year by becoming the sixth-fastest 400m runner ever. He lowered his personal best to 43.45 on April 20, the fastest time ever that early in a year and by somebody that young.

Last season, Lyles joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 in the 200m four times in one year.

But now, Lyles is the fastest this year in the 100m, and Norman leads the world in the 200m. Neither is expected to race those events at the USATF Outdoor Championships next month, the qualifier for worlds. Lyles is focused on the 200m; Norman the 400m as they eye world championships debuts in September.

Full Rome results are here. The Diamond League moves to Oslo next Thursday, with Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest man since the Rio Olympics, headlining.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson ran a statement 100m with her fastest time in nearly two years (10.89) to overtake new phenom Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain by .05. U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs was third in 11.12.

Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio, has since battled injuries and went winless outside her native Jamaica in 2018. She’s now fastest in the world this season.

“If I can run 10.94 when I’m feeling rusty, it’s not bad at all,” Asher-Smith said, according to meet organizers.

Donavan Brazier notched his first Diamond League win in the 800m, edging 2012 Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana by .02 with a lean. The 2017 U.S. champion clocked 1:43.63, fastest in the world since August. Double Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha of Kenya has been sidelined since July 2017 due to quad problems.

Genzebe Dibaba prevailed in the 1500m in 3:56.28, her fastest time since lowering the world record to 3:50.07 in 2015. Dibaba held off Brit Laura Muir by .45, with Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson taking fourth.

Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad won the 400m hurdles in 53.67 seconds, giving her victories in both Diamond League races this season. However, the 2018 world leader Sydney McLaughlin wasn’t in either field. McLaughlin, 19, clocked the fastest time of 2018 at 52.75.

American Rai Benjamin clocked 47.58 to take the men’s 400m hurdles by a hefty 1.41 seconds over a field that lacked Qatari rival Abderrahman Samba. Samba, the second-fastest man ever in the event, owns the two fastest times of the year: 47.27 and 47.51.

Two-time Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova had the worst Diamond League finish of her career, taking seventh in her first top-level meet since 2017, according to Tilastopaja.org. Spotakova, a 37-year-old Czech, gave birth to her second child last year. Her best throw Thursday — 61.51 meters — was more than 35 feet shy of her world record from 2008.

“I tried not to set any goals or to expect anything from myself here,” she said. “Every competition for me now is like a new start of my career.”

Swede Angelica Bengtsson upset Olympic gold and silver medalists Katerina Stefanidi and Sandi Morris in the pole vault, clearing 4.76 meters. Stefanidi and Morris each failed at three attempts at that height. Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champ, no-heighted with three 4.56 misses after having issues getting her poles on her flight.

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk sets first international race since 2017

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Noah Lyles, as he returns to 200m, embraces Christian Coleman rivalry

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Noah Lyles races his first 200m of the season on Thursday, but he actually clocked the slowest 200 meters of his career on Easter.

“Definitely the slowest,” Lyles confirmed, “and it was hot that day.”

Lyles and younger brother/fellow sprinter Josephus were passengers when their mom, Keisha Caine Bishop, pulled the car over suddenly on April 21. She stopped because a woman was pushing her blue Volkswagen along the road near Lyles’ home in Clermont, Fla.

“Without question, my guys, along with another guy, jumped out and pushed her car to the gas station,” she tweeted. “Yes, I’m a proud mom!”

Lyles estimated the nearest gas station was about 200 meters away. He is somewhat familiar with the distance.

“Luckily we were on a hill, so we were able to give it a push, and the hill was able to do most of the work,” he said. Lyles’ new dress shoes were damaged, but it was worth it. 

Lyles covers 200m on a competition track for the first time this season at a Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday (preview/TV schedule here). He will race fellow 21-year-old Michael Norman, a longtime friendly rival who has never beaten Lyles.

“Roomed together on world junior team,” Lyles said. “Mike’s one of the kindest people you’ll meet out there.”

Lyles’ rival in the more traditional sense is Christian Coleman. Lyles, whose focus is the 200m, won a head-to-head (barely) in Coleman’s best event, the 100m, in Shanghai on May 18: 9.852 seconds to 9.858.

Lyles, who set a personal best in that international season opener, then said on Instagram that it was the start of his legacy as a 100m and 200m sprinter. Coleman followed that with tweets that stoked the new rivalry.

“Some of y’all got the game messed up,” tweeted Coleman, the world’s fastest 100m sprinter since the Rio Olympics at 9.79. “The name of the game is World medals. But PRin in May is cool for social media doe.

“Seems as if some people are confused,” Coleman tweeted the next day. “It’s nothing wrong with a PR. But if your goal is to run fast in May to taunt and flex online then your priorities aren’t straight imo. The season is just getting started.”

Lyles was asked to describe his relationship with the 23-year-old Coleman, whom he has faced since junior competition in 2015.

“It’s not good,” he said, followed by a short laugh. “I don’t know man. He just never liked me. I don’t know. You can’t like everybody. It’s not the same as me and Mike.”

Neither sprinter previously commented publicly on the post-Shanghai tweets from Coleman and his girlfriend: “Someone gets an inch, or a win by .006 & they take a mile,” University of Georgia sprinter Micaiah Ransby posted before Coleman’s tweets.

“I like it,” Lyles said of the whole situation. “We talk about it a lot in the track world: there needs to be more rivalries. There needs to be more talk. It gets more exciting when people start talking. ‘Oh man, Noah won’t get away with it next time,’ or such and such. It makes me excited. It makes me think that people are actually paying attention to the sport.”

As for Coleman’s specific opinions?

“He’s right,” Lyles said. “It doesn’t matter until worlds [in Doha in September]. But I’ll definitely be ready for worlds to get that gold in the 200m.”

Lyles added that hearing Coleman wants to challenge him in the 200m this season was “the best news I’ve heard all year, to be honest.”

As for the 100m, Lyles repeated Wednesday that he will not race the shorter sprint at July’s USATF Outdoor Championships nor at worlds.

“Until I see something in the 100m that is very definitive of, I can walk away with a [world championships 100m] medal and still be able to get away with a gold in the 200m, it’s going to be the 200m in Doha right now,” Lyles told a press conference in Rome.

Lyles, speaking by phone after that presser, was told that only one man has run faster than his 9.86 since the Rio Olympics (Coleman), and that Lyles just beat him two weeks ago. Is that not definitive enough?

“No,” he said. “I need to know that I can run three rounds of the 100m at 9.8 or faster [the format at nationals and worlds, but not at Diamond League meets] and then still be able to come back the next day and run three rounds of the 200m. Until I can see that, I don’t think there’s too much of a reason this year to do it. Sacrificing a gold medal to maybe get two silvers or a silver and a gold, I feel that it’s very risky. It’s a lot easier just to get the gold and be known going into the 200m as the ultimate world champ.

“The biggest idea with only doing the 200m is we [Lyles and coach Lance Brauman] want to go in [to the Olympics] being known already as having a gold.”

Lyles said he hopes to race the 100m at least two more times this season — a Diamond League stop in Monaco on July 12 and another to-be-announced meet. It’s not known if Coleman will be there. Coleman’s reps haven’t replied to an interview request to respond to Lyles’ first public comments on the rivalry.

Lyles is approaching two years since perhaps the toughest moment of his young career. Three years ago, he finished fourth at the Olympic trials 200m, which normally upsets an athlete, as the top three make the team. But at age 18, Lyles beamed for he broke the national high school record. He turned pro two weeks later.

Then came 2017. Lyles announced his professional arrival with a 19.90-second 200m, also in Shanghai, that May 13. He became the fourth teen to break 20 seconds in the half-lap, and the first American. But he also felt his hamstring cramp 15 or 20 meters into that victory. He flew to Germany, where a doctor told him it was a two-centimeter tear.

Lyles remembers crying and the psychological pain of nationals the next month, when he withdrew before the 200m semifinals because of the hamstring. That meant no worlds that summer. He would have to wait another two years for the next global championship.

“I knew if I ran, something would have popped, torn. I wasn’t ready to have my career end as soon as it started,” he said. “It was definitely a hard decision … I just knew that I was going to win. It’s so hard to see your goal right in front of your face and then have to turn around and say, I’ll come back for it another time. It’s like seeing your dream car and you know you have the money to buy it and then you get a call saying your mom needs surgery, and you’re the only person who can help. You know what the right thing to do is.”

He watched the August 2017 World Championships from his Florida home, then beat Turkey’s surprise world champion Ramil Guliyev at the Diamond League final three weeks later. Guliyev is in Thursday’s field, too, looking for his first win over Lyles in their sixth meeting.

Lyles is undefeated in outdoor 200m races since the 2016 Olympic trials. Last year, he joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 in the 200m on four occasions in one season. Nobody else has broken 19.8 more than once in this Olympic cycle.

It’s clear that Lyles has an interest in speed, in addition to his drawing, rapping and sock designing. He recently bought that dream car, a white 2019 BMW i8 roadster.

“I think I hit 100 [miles per hour] once in the back roads,” he said. 

His goal time in the 200m this season? “Just to get as close as I can to the world record,” Lyles said. His personal best is 19.65. Bolt’s world record is 19.19.

“The 100m in Shanghai was kind of like a shock on time for me,” Lyles said of that personal best. “Now I’ve got a ton of confidence going into the 200m. You know, I might be trying to shock the world again.”

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk sets first international race since 2017

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Noah Lyles, Michael Norman meet in Rome; preview, TV schedule

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Noah Lyles puts undefeated streaks at stake in his first 200m of the season at a Diamond League meet in Rome, live on NBC Sports on Thursday.

Lyles, unbeaten in outdoor 200m races since the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, takes on fellow 21-year-old phenom Michael Norman at Stadio Olimpico (11:05 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold, and 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Lyles is 3-0 all time against Norman, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The U.S. boasts its best young sprint talent in more than a decade among Christian Coleman (100m), Lyles (200m) and Norman (400m), all fastest in the world since the Rio Olympics in their respective signature events. Coleman is not racing in Rome, but headlines a Diamond League stop in Oslo next week.

It evokes memories of 15 years ago, when first-time Olympians Justin GatlinShawn Crawford and Jeremy Wariner swept the 100m, 200m and 400m at the Athens Olympics.

Lyles is the showman of this generation. He raps. He dances. He roars like a Dragon Ball Z character before races and then wins them wearing Speed Racer socks. He had the word “ICON” tattooed on his side at age 20, after a season in which injury kept him out of the U.S. and world championships.

When Lyles beat Coleman in a 100m for the first time in their senior careers two weeks ago, he said it was the beginning of his legacy as a 100m and 200m sprinter (though Lyles repeated this week that he will not attempt to double at worlds in September). A rivalry was born with Coleman, who (along with his girlfriend), vented on Twitter.

Lyles and Norman have a friendlier history, finishing fourth and fifth at the 2016 Olympic trials 200m. Lyles turned professional two weeks later, forgoing college. Norman turned pro after two seasons at USC and is now the sixth-fastest 400m runner in history. While Coleman indicated he plans to go for a 100m-200m double this year, Norman is expected to focus on the 400m at nationals and, should he qualify, worlds.

Here are the Rome entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:05 a.m. — Women’s Javelin
12:30 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Long Jump
1:15 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:13 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s High Jump
2:23 — Men’s 800m
2:30 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Women’s 100m
2:45 — Men’s 5000m
3:05 — Women’s 400m
3:15 — Women’s 1500m
3:25 — Men’s 200m
3:35 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:45 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:15 p.m.
The four most decorated active women gather in 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr, 2016 Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi, Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris and 2015 World champion Yarisley Silva. They’ll all be eyeing the 37-year-old Suhr’s world-leading clearance of 4.91 meters for 2019. Suhr’s last Diamond League win outside of the U.S. came in 2012.

Women’s 400m Hurdles — 2:13 p.m.
Every Olympic and world champion since 2013 is represented in this field among Kori Carter (2017 Worlds), Dalilah Muhammad (2016 Olympics) and Zuzana Hejnova (2013 and 2015 Worlds). Plus the second- and third-fastest women of 2018 — Shamier Little and Janieve Russell. The only missing superstar is Sydney McLaughlin, whose 52.75 was fastest in the world last year. Muhammad is fastest this season at 53.61.

Women’s 100m — 2:35 p.m.
The two phenoms of this event — U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs and European champion Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain — go head-to-head for the first time. Hobbs won her Diamond League debut in Shanghai in 11.03 seconds, beating Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica (who is also in the Rome field). Asher-Smith won the first two Diamond League 200m of this season in the world’s fastest times of the year. The winner here likely becomes world champs favorite.

Women’s 1500m — 3:15 p.m.
Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson faces world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba for the first time since the 2017 Worlds. Simpson followed her surprise 2011 World title with national titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but the 32-year-old last won a Diamond League race in 2015 and ceded the U.S. crown to Shelby Houlihan last year. This field lacks Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon (out since 2017 due to pregnancy) and Houlihan, but it does boast Brit Laura Muir.

Men’s 200m — 3:25 p.m.
It’s not just Lyles v. Norman. Also in the field: 2017 World gold and bronze medalists Ramil Guliyev and Jereem Richards. None of them have ever beaten Lyles, though. A time to note: 19.65 seconds. That’s Lyles’ personal best. Last year, Lyles joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 four times in one season. But Lyles is still far from Bolt-at-his-best territory. He is the joint-eighth-fastest 200m man in history.

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk sets first international race since 2017

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