Noah Lyles

Noah Lyles compares his progress to Bolt’s and talks about anime-infused celebrations

Leave a comment

A supremely confident Noah Lyles spoke Sunday on Football Night in America about his place in track and field’s post-Usain Bolt sprinting world.

“We talk about Usain Bolt,” Lyles said. “I’m faster than him when he was my age, so let’s see what happens.”

In the 100m, Bolt was faster at this age, running a 9.76 more than three months before his 22nd birthday and then a 9.72 a couple of weeks later. Lyles set his personal best of 9.86 earlier this year, two months before his 22nd birthday.

But in the 200m, while Bolt’s four fastest times are all ahead of Lyles’ best of 19.50, the first of those was one day before his 22nd birthday — the then-record 19.30 at the 2008 Olympics. The others were later in his career. Lyles ran a 19.50 a couple of weeks before his 22nd birthday earlier this year in Lausanne. Bolt’s only other times faster than that came later in his career, so Lyles’ boast is correct at that distance.

Lyles expects to have some crowd support next year in Tokyo because his colorful prerace and postrace antics draw from Japanese culture.

“I’ve got a lot of Japanese followers because I’m a pretty big anime fan, so I’m always showing that on the track,” Lyles said.

While Lyles was tied for the faster 100m time of the year heading into the world championships, he focused on the 200m and didn’t attempt the double. He plans to go for both next year.

The bad news for Lyles in 2020: The Diamond League has cut the 200 from its list of core sports, a decision that surprised him.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nbcolympictalk’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]

Usain Bolt on Noah Lyles’ ‘Bolt Who’ Instagram, his Olympic 100m favorite

Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW YORK — Usain Bolt spoke with OlympicTalk while in Manhattan to receive an International Humanitarian Award from the American Friends of Jamaica for his charity work.

Bolt, who just helped build a home for somebody who lost his in a fire, said he’s now focusing his foundation on bringing computers to children in rural Jamaica.

“When I learned about computers was when I got to high school,” Bolt said Thursday night. “We had no idea, because I’m from the rural area, about what was out there.

“The only thing you knew about was bicycles. You didn’t dream big.”

Bolt also discussed his peculiar Instagram post about Noah Lyles, Allyson Felix breaking his world titles record and his pick to win the Tokyo Olympic 100m. The Q&A is lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

OlympicTalk: Overall thoughts on the world championships?

Bolt: The distance [races] are picking up. I think most of the crowd came to see the distances. It was shocking to see the amount of people there for the sprints — that was different. Overall, the ladies are doing pretty well. They’re really doing much better than the men.

OlympicTalk: You saw Allyson Felix today and talked to her about breaking your world championships gold medals record. What exactly was said?

Bolt: I said to her, I saw you passed me for all-time medals. She said to me, well, most of your medals are gold. I laughed. For her to come back from having a kid, also, on this stage and work this hard to actually come out and compete is big. She said she spoke to [Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the world 100m title after a pregnancy break], and Shelly said the first year is always the hardest year. So next year, I’ll feel much better.

OlympicTalk: Does it hurt you a little bit inside that’s one record you don’t have anymore?

Bolt: It was never about records or running fast times. It’s always championships, getting to the championships, winning and dominating. Showing the world that I was the best. I got to my goal at the end of my career, and that’s what really matters.

OlympicTalk: What about Shelly-Ann, coming back from childbirth to win the 100m. For so long, she raced in your shadow a little bit. Do you think she didn’t get enough credit over the years?

Bolt: She didn’t get enough credit, but I think it’s the personality. I keep explaining to a lot of these athletes that one way people loved me is the personality that I had, that I showed people. Shelly is very shy. She’s quiet. When you hear her speak at functions, she’s really good, but to interact with people, she’s not that type of person. I tell her all the time, if you add the personality, it wouldn’t be like this. It would be much different because people would actually see you, love you, feel your energy and know who you are. So, yes, I kind of overshadowed her because of my personality, but I think people really did recognize what she did for track and field and the work that she put in.

OlympicTalk: Did you watch the Eliud Kipchoge event?

Bolt: No, I just heard about it.

OlympicTalk: It made me wonder if anybody ever came up to you and said, we want to set up an event so you can run sub-9.5. Maybe put a bunch of blowing fans behind you. Did that ever happen?

Bolt: No, no. I never had the opportunity. It would be interesting. We have talked about it. It would be cool to see how fast I would run with proper wind.

OlympicTalk: I have to ask you about something that happened on social media before and during the world championships. You might know what I’m going to ask about.

Bolt: [Laughs] Yeah.

OlympicTalk: After the Paris Diamond League, Noah Lyles posted this after breaking your meet record [shows Bolt the Instagram Story photo]. Did you see that, and what did you think of it?

Bolt: I think he went to another meet after that, and he ran, and then I was watching the TV, and they brought it up. I was like, what do you mean Usain Bolt who? If you don’t know who I am, you’re in the wrong sport. That’s the first thing that came to my mind. I’ve always said this, the young kids are always going to be like that. But it’s funny to hear them talk, hear the energy that they push. I’ve set a standard so high. You can talk all you want, but you have to prove that you can live up to that standard. Breaking a meet record means nothing to me. But I was surprised that he actually said that.

OlympicTalk: I’ve got to ask you a follow-up then. Did you post this [shows Bolt his own Instagram Story photo] after the world championships 200m final?

Bolt: Yes I did. It was funny to me because throughout the whole season [Lyles] was like, oh, I’m going to break the world record. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. But in my mind, I’m saying, do you know how hard it is to go to the championship and break a world record? I felt like, because he was running fast all season, he felt like, yeah, I’m going to show up, and I’m going to do it. So I found it funny.

Editor’s Note: Lyles was asked often this summer about Bolt’s world record in the 200m — 19.19 seconds — after Lyles ran 19.50 with no wind. Lyles’ usual response was that he hoped to do special things in the event, but never predicted, in media interviews, that he would word-for-word break the world record. Lyles won the world 200m title in 19.83 seconds.

OlympicTalk: Were you nervous he might get the world record in Doha?

Bolt: No, I knew he wasn’t going to get it. It’s not easy. A lot of people see it and feel like you show up and you just run fast. For me, throughout the season, I figured out what I needed to do. I didn’t run races because I wanted to run fast. I ran races to figure out how I needed to run the corner, my technique I needed to fix. If you followed me through my career, I didn’t run a lot throughout the season. I trained. I ran and competed, figured out what I needed to improve, then did that [repeated that process] over again. That’s what I did to perfect my race [for the championships].

OlympicTalk: Have you spoken to Noah at all this summer or fall?

Bolt: No, I’ve never had a conversation with him.

OlympicTalk: Noah wants to do the 100m-200m double next year. You’ve also got Christian Coleman, Justin Gatlin, Yohan Blake. Who is your pick to win the Olympic 100m?

Bolt: I don’t see anybody actually beating Coleman. I think he’s only going to get better. For me, competing with him [in 2017, when Coleman took silver and Bolt bronze at worlds], his start is ridiculous. If he improves the last part of his race, he’s going to be, probably, unstoppable. I don’t see anybody beating him. I also have to say respect to Gatlin, the fact that he medaled at the championship [silver in the 100m in Doha behind Coleman after squeaking into the eight-man final]. I told my people, listen, I’m sure Coleman is going to win, but Gatlin is going to be in the top three no doubt because when he comes to a championship, no matter how much you feel like he’s not going to do well, he shows up. That’s just the mind of a champion. Competing with him throughout the years, I figured that out. That’s why I respect him. I gave him respect at the end [of my career in 2017]. I said, you know, you’re a true champion. I really enjoyed my last five years of my career competing with him.

OlympicTalk: If you could do it over again, would you have raced in 2017?

Bolt: Definitely. Doing it was for the fans. When I went to my doctor [former German national soccer team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt] before I went to the [world] championship, my doctor told me not to do it. He said, if you go to the championships, most likely you’re going to get injured because you’re not fit. I feel like you’re not ready to compete at this level. But I was like, you know what, I told everybody I was going to come out and compete. It was important for me to do it for the fans because they made me who I am, and I promised I would do it one more year.

Editor’s Note: Bolt was defeated in his last two career races, taking bronze in the 100m at the 2017 Worlds and tumbling to the track with a hamstring tear in the 4x100m relay final.

OlympicTalk: How far before worlds was that doctor’s visit?

Bolt: Two weeks. Every year before championships, I get a check-up.

OlympicTalk: Were you with him at Oktoberfest in Munich this year?

Bolt: Yeah.

OlympicTalk: I see videos and pictures of you at Oktoberfest every year. What was the beginning of you going to Oktoberfest, singing Queen and Kings of Leon in the beer hall every year?

Bolt: Every year I went to see the doctor, he would say, you should come to Oktoberfest. I would never go. But one year he finally convinced me. It was nice. Laughing, good food. Then they always try to bring me up on stage. The crowd is loud. The energy. That’s me. I love stuff like that.

OlympicTalk: What’s next for you in 2020?

Bolt: I told my agent I want to travel to all the meets. I want to know the athletes who are going to compete because, this year, I really didn’t know a lot about what was going on. I knew about Lyles and Gatlin, but I didn’t know much about the rest of the field. Next year, I want to go to meets, see the athletes, see who’s doing well. When I get to the Olympics, I can actually say, they’re looking good.

OlympicTalk: What will you do at the Olympics next year? Attend as a fan? Sponsor functions? Commentary?

Bolt: I definitely will be doing sponsor stuff. Eurosport has asked me [about broadcast work]. I’m not sure. I’m thinking about it.

OlympicTalk: And these meets you want to go to next season. We’re talking Diamond League meets around the world?

Bolt: Yeah. I’ll probably pick four or five, just to watch. I just want to see what’s going on, stay on top of things and know the athletes.

OlympicTalk: Did watching the world championships give you any itch to think, I wish I was out there?

Bolt: I missed it [competing]. Especially watching the guys from Jamaica not really doing that well. But I don’t want to. The training, that’s what I don’t want to do.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nzaccardi’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]

Joe Kovacs roars with world shot put title by one centimeter

Leave a comment

Before his final throw, U.S. shot putter Joe Kovacs found his coach in the crowd at the world championships Doha. That coach also happened to be his wife, Ashley, who in the last year helped convince Kovacs not to retire.

She reminded him of the goal going into the competition — set a personal best and get onto the podium. Kovacs went back to the circle, lifted the 16-pound ball and prepared to heave.

“I took a big breath,” he said. “But when I put that ball in the neck, I felt everything line up.”

Kovacs recorded that personal best. He moved from fourth place to first. He had launched the joint-fourth-best throw in history — 22.91 meters, or 75 feet, 2 inches — and the farthest in 29 years.

Kovacs, the 2015 World champion who earned silver at the Rio Olympics and 2017 World Championships, beat the reigning Olympic champion Ryan Crouser and reigning world champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand each by one centimeter. All threw farther than the previous world championships record in what was the greatest shot put competition in history.

TRACK WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

Kovacs, taught the shot put by his mom in a Pennsylvania school parking lot, re-emerged as the world’s best after a rough couple of years. In 2018, he was fifth at the USATF Outdoor Championships. He lost his Nike sponsorship. He wasn’t getting invited to Diamond League meets.

“I was hearing everybody kept trying to tell me that I should be done,” the 30-year-old said. “And I honestly thought maybe I should kind of hang it up.”

He spoke to his wife, a former thrower at Kentucky who has two master’s degrees and now coaches Kovacs and others at Ohio State. They wed last November.

“We said, you know, our goal is through Tokyo,” he said. “Let’s put it all together and let’s go full speed ahead.”

This season, Kovacs was sixth, third, fourth and fifth in Diamond Leagues before placing second at nationals. He was relieved simply to make the world championships team. Crouser, who on April 20 launched the world’s best throw since 1990, and Walsh were still a class above. It was still that way going into the final round on Saturday night. Then Kovacs launched the throw of his life and let out roar after roar before the distance was recorded.

“I’m just proud that I was able to stay in my own head and not watch Ryan and Tom throw so far and get tight,” he said.

In other events Saturday, the U.S. men ended a 12-year gold-medal drought in the 4x100m with an American record. The U.S. women earned bronze. More on the relays here.

Sifan Hassan, who fled from Ethiopia for the Netherlands at age 16 as a refugee, became the first runner to sweep the 10,000m and 1500m at a world championships.

Hassan led after each lap and ran away to win in 3:51.95, the sixth-fastest 1500m ever. She did it days after her coach, Alberto Salazar, was banned four years in a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case.

An emotional Hassan was vehement that she’s a clean athlete and believes in Salazar. Hassan noted that she was atop the world rankings in the 1500m as far back as 2014, two years before she joined Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project. She also said she knew Salazar was under investigation when she joined the group, but she never saw proof of wrongdoing.

“It was a very hard week for me. I was just so angry. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I just ran all out,” she said on the BBC. “I’ve been so good athlete since 2014. Now people just start talking all (expletive).”

Hassan relegated reigning Olympic and world champion and new mom Faith Kipyegon to silver in a Kenyan record and Gudaf Tsegay to bronze in a time that made her the second-fastest Ethiopian in history.

American Shelby Houlihan took a bittersweet fourth in 3:54.99, smashing Shannon Rowbury‘s American record by 1.3 seconds.

“I wanted a medal. I wanted to win,” Houlihan told Lewis Johnson on Olympic Channel. “But, if I can get an American record, you can kind of walk away happy with that.”

Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World champion and Olympic bronze medalist, was eighth in 3:58.42, her fastest time in three years.

Hellen Obiri repeated as world champion in the 5000m, where Hassan would have been the favorite had she entered. Obiri clocked 14:26.72, leading a Kenyan one-two with Margaret Kipkemboi.

Three Olympic champions were eliminated in qualifying for Sunday finals — Americans Brianna McNeal (100m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (by one centimeter in the long jump) and German Thomas Röhler (javelin).

Both U.S. 4x400m teams won heats to advance to Sunday finals.

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Doha.

MORE: Brianna McNeal DQed from 100m hurdles in first round

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nbcolympictalk’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]