Is Noah Lyles faster than Usain Bolt?

World Athletics Awards 2022 At Le Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel
Lyles at the World Athletics Awards 2022

Usain Bolt lit up the world of sprinting and held everyone off for more than a decade. The sight of crowds maintaining absolute silence, waiting for the starting pistol to fire and to see arguably the world's greatest athlete do what he does best is one to behold.

From ability to persona, absolutely everything about the Jamaican superstar is a thing of beauty. In his career, Bolt set and broke his own record over and over again at the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, leaving anyone who ran in the Usain Bolt era with no chance whatsoever.

Bolt at the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships 2011
Bolt at the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships 2011

When Lyles was thought to be faster than Bolt

The 25-year-old American sprinter is an absolute menace on the track. After Bolt's era, Lyles has been an unstoppable force, especially dominating the event known as the middle child of sprinting: the 200-meter sprint.

At the 2020 Inspiration Games in Zurich, Switzerland, Lyles ran alongside Churandy Martina of the Netherlands and Christophe Lemaitre of France in the 200-meter sprint. After Lyles' finish, the numbers on the clock sent a shock down everyone's spines. It read 18.91 seconds—0.28 seconds faster than Bolt's world record set in 2009.

However, the moment of joy for the American athlete did not last long. Soon after his finish, it was determined that the organizers had mistakenly placed Lyles on the wrong track and he ran only 185 meters on that run.

His personal bests stand at 19.31 seconds for the 200-meter sprint, 9.86 seconds for the 100-meter sprint, and 14.69 seconds for the 150-meter sprint. Usain Bolt's best performances in all three events are faster than Lyles' own. Bolt holds the world record for the 100- and 200-meter sprints with a time of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds, respectively. His best performance in the 150-meter sprint saw him stop the clock at 14.35.

In conclusion, no, Lyles is not faster than Lightning Bolt—yet.

Noah Lyles: Threatening Bolt's 200-meter record

Lyles is already the 200-meter legend at the age of 25. He had a once-in-a-generation season in 2022, running 12 200-meter races, winning all of them and to top it off, finishing all of them under the 20-second mark.

Lyles at the World Athletics Championships Oregon 2022
Lyles at the World Athletics Championships Oregon 2022

At the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Lyles stopped the clock at 19.31 seconds in the 200m sprint, becoming the third-fastest man in the world at the event behind second-placed Yohan Blake (19.26) and Lightning Bolt (19.19). Lyles has dominated the 200 and has gradually become faster and faster with his finishes.

Talking to NBC sports after shattering the American record, he clearly stated his goal:

"I was planning to run 19.10. That’s what me and my therapist had in our hearts. I was very much on the idea of I want to give myself a goal to chase that’s so out there. Even if I don’t get to that goal, I’ll have obliterated whatever is behind me.”
Bolt's cconic celebration: World Athletics Championships, 2017
Bolt's cconic celebration: World Athletics Championships, 2017

Regardless of whether Lyles overtakes Bolt in the 200 or not, the legacy left behind by the Jamaican sprinter will never be forgotten. He is and always will be the face of athletics.

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Edited by Sabine Algur