Five years after finishing fourth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, Noah Lyles made his first Olympic team in the men’s 200 meters. The 2019 world champion won the Trials final in 19.74 seconds, a new world lead, on Sunday, June 27, at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
Kenny Bednarek finished second in 19.78, and Erriyon Knighton placed third in 19.84 to make Team USA heading for Tokyo this summer. Fred Kerley, who qualified for Team USA in the 100 meters, finished fourth in 19.90.
Lyles, 23, was in high school when he competed in the 100 and 200 meters at the 2016 national championship. That summer, he turned pro shortly after almost making the team for Rio. The three-time national champion represented Team USA at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, where he won the 200 meters and contributed to his country’s winning 4×100-meter relay.
“Ever since , my mindset of becoming an Olympian again was on my mind and gosh what a buildup it has been with each year, grabbing the world lead and Diamond League wins, world championships, and then having the pause of 2020, it’s probably been my hardest year,” Lyles said. “All of those other years before this were easy, even 2019 was rough, but it was nothing compared to this. I don’t think anybody can prepare you for the lion you have to slay at the Olympic Trials. It’s not world championships, it’s not U.S. championships, this is the hardest team to make and everybody here shows it.”
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Knighton, 17, turned heads during the 200-meter semifinal on Saturday when he won the heat in 19.88, beating Lyles and improving on Usain Bolt’s under-20 world record. He lowered the time once again during the final on Sunday. Knighton turned pro in January after a 2020 track season that included a dominant 20.33 victory at the AAU Junior Olympics. The performance made him the second-fastest sprinter ever among athletes under 18 years-old.
According to The New York Times, Knighton will be the youngest American man to compete in track and field at the Olympics since Jim Ryun raced the 1500 meters in 1964.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’ll probably sink in when I go back to the hotel but as of right now, I’m just happy and I feel like it’s a really big achievement,” Knighton said, in reference to becoming an Olympian.
Bednarek, 22, ran a personal best to make his first Olympic team. The Indian Hills Community College alum finished fourth in the 100 meters but returned to Hayward Field to earn redemption with a podium finish in the 200 meters.
“I don’t know what to really say,” Bednarek said. “I mean, I made the team, I got second. I’m happy that happened. I went into the race, happy to have a good start and just try to maintain the lead and I had a little hiccup. I got a lot of small minor things to work on to make sure I’m better by next time.”
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