Noah Lyles has fascinated track fans for years, first as a high school phenom, then, as a pro athlete with adidas. In 2019 and 2022, Noah Lyles took the 200-meter titles at the World Championships. His 2023 season has started out with a 60m PB. This is how Deji Ogeyingbo sees the future of Noah Lyles. He calls it Noah Lyles 2.0.
Why we should be scared of Noah Lyles 2.0
The indoor season is one of the poorest indicators of how an athlete will perform outdoors. In fact, some of the world’s best athletes in history somehow prefer to skip it and condition themselves for the world championships and the Olympics. Still, there is usually plenty to take away from them if you look deep into the performances of these athletes.
Some greats like Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Karsten Warholm never took the indoor season seriously, and they reached the pinnacle of their careers. But that’s the thing about elite athletics, getting to the top doesn’t follow a straight line. The sport has got limitless boundaries for each event and finding ways to reach each height is always the goal.
So, when Noah Lyles won the men’s 60m race at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, this season’s second World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Boston, there was relief and foresight that the 200m world champion was already sorting out the weakest part of his race.
The 60m final in Boston was billed as the signature event of the meet and it did deliver. Lyles won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.
But on Saturday, February 4, it was a reborn Lyles. Perhaps a Lyles 2.0. The American ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his Personal Best. The excitement on his face was conspicuous. And not just because he won- he has done that for a large chunk of his career, but mainly due to the fact he seemed to have sorted out his terrible start which to an extent gave him this win over Bromell.
“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”
All of this progress dates back to last season when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. It was a major factor in his outdoor season as he took a huge chunk off his 200m best, lowering it from 19.50 to 19.31. It was on that backdrop that Lyles knew immediately he was getting into full swing.
One man Lyles is aiming to emulate surely is Bolt. It might seem far-fetched, but it’s baby steps. This means Bolt, who had a poor reaction start in the early stages of his career, used to sort them out as he became more mature was different. Lyles is following a different trajectory. The indoor season is his muse and by virtue of his latest performance, he is sure his enjoying it.
There is an argument Bolt was a supremely gifted sprinter compared to Lyles, but at the rate, the American is going, the margin is definitely reducing. Bolt took track fans to the realm we never saw with regard to the numbers he churned out. And he did it in the span of three years. Lyles has had to grow into his. For context, Bolt ran 19.32 when he was 22, while Lyles is already 25.
Another aspect of Lyles’ races in this 60m win that becomes relevant is in his 100m performance. Compared to some of the best over the distance, he pales in comparison. His Personal Best of 9.86 is way behind the likes of Christian Coleman (9.76), Trayvon Bromell (9.76), and Fred Kerley (9.76). Even Marvin Bracy who took a run at football ,has a PB of 9.85. Surely if he’s to get to the level of Bolt, he needs to step up his game in the 100m.
This new version of Lyles is a beauty to see and as he progresses into his other indoor races, there is a strong indication he might finally be a strong favorite over the 100/200m for the first time in a world championship year.
Editor’s note: At the Millrose Games, on February 11, Noah was given a DQ, but competed under protest. At the USATF Indoors, on February 18, Noah ran well in the semi-final but felt some tightness in his hip flexor. Out of caution, his coach, Lance Braumann held him out of the 60m final. We will see Noah in about two months outdoors, focusing on the 100m/200m double. The journey to gold continues with Noah Lyles, 2.0.