‘I need to be an influencer’: Noah Lyles aims for the stars after 200m gold

After Noah Lyles retained his world 200m title in a time so stunning it broke Michael Johnson’s US record from the 1996 Olympics, he ripped open his vest like the Incredible Hulk. 

Then he set his sight on a new goal: becoming a global influencer to help propel track and field into the mainstream.

If anyone can do it, it is Lyles. Not only did he run 19.31sec to become the third-fastest athlete over the 200m in history, he then showed again that he has the personality to also transcend his sport.

As the 25-year-old crossed the line, the clock initially flashed up as 19.32, the same time as Johnson’s from the 1996 Olympics. “I didn’t want it to say 19.32,” said Lyles. 

“I wanted my own time. Nobody wants to share a record. I was just begging it to change, like: ‘Come on, don’t do this to me.’

“And then I heard the crowd just go into uproar. I looked up at the big screen and it said 19.31 and I just went ballistic.”

One of the first people to congratulate Lyles was Johnson, who is commentating for the BBC in Eugene. “When Michael congratulated me, I was shocked,” said Lyles.

We have chatted on Twitter but I have never interacted. I felt like it was one generation meeting another generation.

Lyles, who had been devastated to win only Olympic bronze in Tokyo, led home a US 1-2-3 with Kenny Bednarek (19.77) and 18-year-old Erriyon Knighton (19.80) battling it out for silver and bronze.

It was the second clean sweep for US men in Eugene after Fred Kerley, Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell swept the 100m. And afterwards, when talk turned to whether such results could help save the sport, Lyles set out his plan.