DESMOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Noah Lyles has left the spotlight to the 100 metres competitors at the United States national/world trials so far this week, but that will change on Saturday.
Lyles, who has run faster at 200 metres than any man since Jamaican Usain Bolt won the 2012 Olympics, will begin the chase for a spot on the American team for September’s world championships in Doha.
World 100m silver medallist Christian Coleman likely awaits in Sunday’s final, but first both must go through rounds on Saturday and Sunday’s semi-finals.
Lyles believes he is “the man” in the event, but in an interview with Reuters quickly added a cautious tone.
“I feel like the man, but I don’t want to be conceited in the thought that just because I think I might be unbeatable, I can’t be beat,” the 22-year-old said.
“Because the day I think I can’t be beat is the day that I will slip up and somebody will come and beat me.”
It happened in Rome in early June when world 400 metres favourite Michael Norman ended a three-year win streak by Lyles.
“To be honest, we trained so much for the 100 that my 200 wasn’t perfected yet,” Lyles said.
“You saw what happened in Lausanne when I perfected the 200,” the proud sprinter added.
That’s when the American ran a stunning 19.50 seconds. Only three men, including record holder Bolt, have been faster.
Now comes the potential showdown with Coleman, which will close down the four-day meeting on Sunday.
On paper, it’s a Lyles’ win since Coleman’s best in the event is 19.85 seconds in 2017.
But this is a budding rivalry and Coleman, with a yearly best of 19.91, has said all week he believes he can be a player in the longer event.
“We are two guys just out here running, and both of us want to be the best,” Lyles told Reuters.
“Sometimes you make friends out here, sometimes you don’t,” added the confident runner, whose style contrasts with the more reserved Coleman.
After Lyles won their only meeting this year, a 100m in Shanghai, Coleman tweeted: “Some of y’all got the game messed up. The name of the game is World medals. But PRin in May is cool for social media doe.”
Asked about their relationship a few days later, Lyles told NBC Sports, “He just never liked me. I don’t know. You can’t like everybody.”
“I’d say it is a rivalry,” Lyles added this week.
And one that is good for athletics, he declared.
“There is nothing in the sport that makes it more fun when you think you can win, but there’s nothing certain,” Lyles said.
“It’s exciting, and it makes everybody else excited too.”
Whether Sunday’s race will be exciting time-wise, Lyles, who is planning to soon colour his dark hair grey, is not sure.
“The objective is to make the team,” he said, “but if I show up on the line in the finals and I’m like, ‘Hey Coach, I’m feeling like something can happen,’ and he’s like ‘Let’s go and do it’, then we are going to go out and do it.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Des Moines, Iowa; Editing by Christian Radnedge)