Athletics: US sprinter Lyles ready to write next chapter, starting at world indoors

AFP , Thursday 29 Feb 2024

Noah Lyles' road to his ambitious aim of "all the Olympic medals" at the Paris Games winds through Glasgow this weekend, with the top US sprinter seeking 60m glory at the world indoor championships.

Noah Lyles
US sprinter Noah Lyles celebrates his third gold medal at the outdoor World Championships in Budapest last year. Photo: AFP


Lyles is a six-time world outdoor champion, last year becoming the first sprinter to win the world 100-200m double since Usain Bolt in 2015.

Bolt's retirement in 2017 left a gaping hole at the heart of athletics, but Lyles does not shy away from trying to take on the mantle of the fastest man on earth, something that comes with untold riches and notoriety.

Lyles heads to Scotland on the back of a first-ever US indoor title and a multi-million-dollar contract renewal with German sportswear brand Adidas said to be second only to Bolt's with Puma.

But the American's stock cannot currently be said to be quite the same as Bolt's.

Crucially, Lyles does not have an Olympic title to his name, and Bolt still holds the world records in both the 100m and 200m.

Ever the showman, Lyles earlier this month captured the US title over domestic rival Christian Coleman in a personal best 6.43 seconds.

"I'm not going to say I'm shocked, but I'm very proud of myself, it's eight years in the making," said Lyles.

Outdoor fireworks

The 26-year-old sees competing indoors as the perfect chance to hone his start -- which he considers the weak link in his skillset -- in time for the Olympics.

"This is indoor, I'm just excited that I'm running this fast consistently," Lyles said after his victory over Coleman.

"This is my weakest event, so come outdoors, wow fireworks!"

Lyles boasts personal bests of 9.83sec and 19.31sec for the 100m and 200m compared to Bolt's world records of 9.58 and 19.19.

Bolt's efforts were both set at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, a year after the Jamaican had set previous bests of 9.63 and 19.30 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to really make the world sit up and take notice.

"Last year I went out there and won three gold medals," a defiant Lyles said.

"This year I want to get four. And if I don’t get four, I am going after three world records.

"If I don’t succeed, I will try, try, try again."

As an athlete whose passions also include fashion, Lyles sports a fine piece of bling: a diamond-encrusted ring with the letters 'WC' inside a red track, with his name engraved alongside 2023, in a similar vein to the ostentatious rings worn by NFL Super Bowl winners.

Lyles' new deal with Adidas was termed "the richest contract in the sport of track and field since the retirement of Usain Bolt".

It means the American will be wearing the company's apparel and spikes up to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

It also underlines Lyles' economic value to the brand, although he has some way to go to match the earning potential of Bolt, who had sponsors lining up as he won six individual Olympic gold medals (three at 100m and three at 200m) and two relay golds.

That could change if the American kicks off his international 2024 season with a world indoor 60m title, with three more golds to go after at the Paris Olympics.

Track and field remains a minority sport in the United States, but there is nothing Americans like more than Olympic glory to cement an athlete's career.

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