U.S. Track & Field Trials: Noah Lyles takes another step toward goal of four Olympic golds

EUGENE, Ore. — Noah Lyles’ audacious goal of four Olympic gold medals is starting to look a little less implausible.

The decorated American sprinter keeps on backing up his boastful talk with remarkable big-race performances.

Lyles preserved hope of a sprint double at the Olympics on Saturday night when he roared back from behind to win the 200 meters final at the U.S. track and field trials. His world-leading time of 19.53 seconds broke a 28-year-old U.S. Olympic Trials record and was just over two tenths of a second shy of the American record he set at world championships in 2022.

“Well, if you claim that you’re going to go out there and win four medals, then the goal had to be to win the 100 and 200,” Lyles said. “So the job is accomplished.”

The 200 final mirrored Lyles’ Olympic Trials victory in the 100 six days prior. The strongest competition came from “Kung Fu” Kenny Bednarek, the often-overlooked former Olympic silver medalist who is enjoying a career-best season in both of the short sprints.

Lyles said his plan was to “swallow [Bednarek] up" in the first 50 meters, but the race played out in the exact opposite fashion. It was Bednarek who opened a substantial gap over Lyles as they rounded the turn and powered down the final straightaway.

Noah Lyles won both the 100 and 200 meter races at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials this week in Eugene, Oregon. (Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports)
Noah Lyles won both the 100 and 200 meter races at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials this week in Eugene, Oregon. (Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports)

“After we came off the turn, I was like, ‘All right, don’t panic,’” Lyles said. “I’ve been here many times before. We’re going to get to the last 80 and he’s going to fall and I’m going to get faster.”

Bednarek lowered his personal best to 19.59 seconds and qualified for Paris in the 200, but he couldn’t hold off the hard-charging Lyles after his muscles tightened approaching the finish line. Coming so close left Bednarek optimistic that he can produce a different outcome if he and Lyles meet again in the Olympic final.

“I’m healthy and dangerous,” Bednarek said. “That’s all I can ask for.”

When asked what “dangerous” meant to him, Bednarek responded, “It means that they should all fear me. That’s what it means. Obviously I’m on their case and I showed the world that I got a lot in me and a lot more in the tank.”

Joining Lyles and Bednarek in punching their ticket to Paris was Erriyon Knighton, who claimed third place in 19.77 seconds. It was an impressive showing from Knighton considering that the reigning world championship silver medalist hadn’t run in months prior to Trials.

On April 12, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency provisionally suspended Knighton after he tested positive for a metabolite of trenbolone during an out-of-competition drug test. It wasn’t until June 20 that an independent arbiter cleared Knighton to return to competition after determining that his failed drug test was “more likely than not” caused by contaminated meat.

When asked how stressful the positive test was, Knighton said, “It wasn’t really stressful at all because I knew I never did anything wrong.” Knighton said he was confident he could make the U.S. Olympic team in the 200 despite having hardly raced this season prior to Trials.

“It just goes to show you what kind of athlete that I am,” Knighton said. “I can always step on the track at any given time and any given shape that I’m in and always compete at the highest level.”

The hard-luck fourth-place finisher once again was Christian Coleman. The 60-meter specialist ran back-to-back 19.89s in the semifinals and finals yet missed the Olympics by a single spot just like he did in the 100 meters final at Trials last Sunday.

Lyles called his record-setting time of 19.53 seconds an “average” performance for him. He hopes to get down into the 19.4s and 19.3s before the summer is over. That’s what it may take to keep hope alive of four gold medals, something that no man — not even the legendary Usain Bolt — has done.

At last year’s world championships, Lyles claimed the sprint treble, winning the men’s 100 and 200 before leading the U.S. men’s 4x100-meter relay team to gold with a dazzling anchor leg. Lyles is hoping USA Track & Field will give him the chance to add the 4x400-meter relay to his repertoire this summer.

“I haven’t started negotiations yet,” Lyles said. “Let’s just say it will be hard. But I’m going to let them know that I’m available and I’m ready to go.”