HOMETOWN: Gainesville, FL EVENT: Sprint
Alot of people can get really discouraged in losing,” says Noah Lyles. “But losing is a great teacher.” Not that he has learned that lesson very often. A high school track phenom who declined a college scholarship to turn pro, he has been racking up wins since 2018 when he busted the 19.7-second mark in the 200-meter dash at four competitions—a feat previously accomplished only by legendary Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. This summer in Tokyo, he stands as good a chance as any of sweeping the 100-, 200-, and 4x100-meter races, another feat only ever logged by Bolt.
Interestingly, Lyles thinks of sprinting—maybe the purest burst of physical power in sports—as a psychological battle. “If I have a strong mindset, even when my body’s down, I can make it do something,” he says. “You can only train your body to a certain point, but you can always expand your mind.”
The psychological battle is one he knows well. On social media, he has shared his struggles with depression, which hit him surprisingly hard in the weeks after winning the 2019 world championships. “I was getting into that mindset of barely wanting to even train anymore,” he says. “It got to the point where I was just so deep, deep inside of myself, where I was basically just putting on a face.” Part of the issue was being away from family—not only are both of his parents former sprinters, but for years he’s been racing alongside his younger brother, Josephus.
With a push from his mom, he spoke with a therapist and got the antidepressants he needed. He and his brother moved in together, and while tracks were closed, trained on grass fields. When competition resumed, Lyles returned to form, notching wins against the world’s best at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.
“I plan to keep on breaking the world record multiple times,” he says. “I think that would end the comparisons with Usain Bolt!”
So what does Bolt himself think? When asked who he felt was the sprinter to watch in Tokyo, he offered up one name: Noah Lyles.