Editor’s note: Last February, Noah Lyles told the assembled media that he would win three gold medals in Budapest. I remember looking at his face and noting in my diary that this guy totally believed in himself. I also noted that his coach, Lance Baumann, believed in this. 

After the 100m win in Budapest, Coach Baumann told me that the 100 meters was the toughest of the three. I became a total believer after watching Noah win the 200m and anchor the 4x100m, which were seamless (well, except for the cart accidents). Paris will be ferocious, but Noah Lyles feels he has been building for this his entire life. 

Deji Ogeyingbo reminds us just how tough this triple or quadruple will be, which makes it even more exciting! 

Just how feasible is Noah Lyles’ triple-gold ambition in Paris?

 

In the quest to find a sprinter who will carry track and field on their shoulders, you wouldn’t find many athletes willing to volunteer to play both the hero and villain. In a world where marketing and storytelling are key to shaping the narrative of the audience consuming your content, it has become a necessity for the global appeal of any sport to push forward an athlete(s) that resonates with all or two-thirds of the world. Noah Lyles is that guy for athletics. At least, he has been for the last two years.

The problem with being in the eye of the storm (which also comes with so many benefits) is fans of the sport invariably compare you to the previous dude who made everyone stand on their feet. How can you possibly match Usain Bolt? It’s almost an impossible task. Lyles has tried to carve a niche for himself on and off the track, but sometimes, he seems to be forcing it. The attention, but more importantly, the results are on track.

The latter part is key, considering that’s the main reason we are even talking about Lyles. You have to be a very good athlete—I dare say a generational one, too. Many believe that Lyles falls in that category. After all, he is a multiple world champion, the American record holder in the 200m, and the third fastest runner of the distance in history. These accolades prime him for being one of the greatest of all time in the sport.

Noah Lyles, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

After a blistering indoor season in which Lyles won three Silver medals, he now switches his attention to the outdoor season, and his first race was the 100m at the Tom Jones Invitational. He barely won the race in 10.01s, out dipping Kenny Bednarek by 0.005s.  It’s easy to chalk it down to it being his first 100m of the season, but rather tellingly are the signs this race portends for him as the outdoor season unravels leading up to the Paris Olympics.

Lyles has always made known his intention to imitate Bolt by winning Triple Olympic Gold at the Olympics (by the way, Bolt did it at three consecutive Olympics), and at 26, he is looking to make amends and potentially kickstart his medal collection after he came unstuck in the 200m at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago. He has even bullishly claimed he might want to go for four Gold- adding the 4x400m (he won Silver for the USA at the World Indoors in Glasgow after being drafted at the last minute).

But herein lies the issue with that dream. Lyles seems to be the best at only 200m. Despite being the world champion in the 100m, some guys will give him a run for his money any day. Coupled with the fact that he hasn’t still been able to master the event yet, anything short of a win in Paris will most certainly crush the attention he seeks, one that comes with being the fastest man in the world. All that seemed to change at the world relays- a qualifying event for the Olympics.

Noah Lyles took the 100m in Bermuda, 2024 Bermuda Grand Prix, photo by USATF.

At the relays in the Bahamas, Lyles continued his fine streak of anchoring the US 4x100m team to victory while qualifying them for the Paris Olympics. It looks easy to the eye, but when you consider the US 4x100m team’s history of failing at major championships, their recent dominance in the event is partly down to Lyle’s aura and leadership style.

In any functional team, there are different personality types, and it’s always important to have an athlete who oozes confidence, not only by the way he talks but also by what he does on the track. That guy is Lyles. The younger teammates, such as Courtney Lindsey and Kyree King, listen and even look up to him. That camaraderie is such an important tool in building a successful team. After all, he’s the most successful athlete on the team.

Lyles enjoys the validation these successes seem to bring, and it looks like an added fuel to the greater goal in Paris—triple Olympic Gold—maybe even four. We can never tell. You can’t question his commitment to the course and, more importantly, his willingness to outdo what others have done in the past.

He has committed to run 19.10s this year. Putting such a race together takes immense training, build-up, and concentration. How big are his chances at the Paris Olympics? These wins have helped him build his confidence further, especially in the 100m.  After he reduced his Personal Best in the indoor 60m to 6.43s, it was conventional knowledge that it would impact his 100m positively. The 4x100m and 200m seem to be in the bag already. Maybe his chances at triple gold might see the light of day.

 

Editor’s note: To truly appreciate Noah Lyles, please watch this interview in its entirety: 

Noah Lyles, The 2023 RunBlogRun Interview

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