‘The bar is low’ - American sprint king slams World Athletics for failing athletes

Noah Lyle. Imago

ATHLETICS ‘The bar is low’ - American sprint king slams World Athletics for failing athletes

Joel Omotto 14:32 - 26.08.2023

Noah Lyles feels runners are not properly being “presented to the world” compared to other sports such as the NBA and NFL.

Noah Lyles became the fifth male athlete in history to complete the sprint double at the World Championships, then insisted the sport’s stars are not properly being “presented to the world”.

The American, who is the first man since Usain Bolt eight years ago to capture both the world 100m and 200m gold medals at the same championships, said “the bar is low” when asked about how he wants to raise athletics’ profile around the globe.

With his own docuseries on air and the Netflix cameras following his every move ahead of their sprint project which will air next year, Lyles did not hold back on the subject of how track and field is viewed back in his home country.

Despite what he has achieved, the man who clocked 19.52 (-0.2) to hold off fellow countryman Erriyon Knighton (19.75), Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo (19.81), and British record-holder Zharnel Hughes (20.02) will earn a fraction of the money and have a smaller public profile in the US than the big names in the NFL or, as he pointed out, the NBA.

“The thing that hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA finals and they have world champion on their heads. World champion of what?” asked the 26-year-old. “I love the US – at times – but that ain’t the world! We are the world.

“We have almost every country out here fighting, thriving putting on a flag to show that they are representative. There are no flags in the NBA.

“We’ve got to do more. We’ve got to be presented to the world. I love the track community, but we can only do so much within our own bubble. There’s a whole world out there.”

The medals will help Lyles to realise his dream of bringing a greater audience to what he and his fellow athletes do.

Without them, as he puts it: “Who’s going to want to pay attention to you?”. These World Championships have helped to grow his collection and, he says, offer a route towards fashion, music, connection, and collaboration with the kind of people that bring with them a greater spotlight.

But Lyles added that he feels there are ways in which athletics could also better be helping itself and calling on the help of some of its most stellar names. 

Few people have ever done more to draw the eyes of the world towards sprinting than Bolt, but he has not been seen at a World Championships since his retirement in London six years ago, for example.

“As I look around this World Championships, I don’t see Bolt, I don’t see Asafa [Powell]. I don’t see Yohan [Blake] and he’s still running! Where are all these great champions?” said Lyles.

“We look at them, as we’re walking through the tunnel [being presented to the crowd], at all of these previous world champions. Why are they not here?”

Earlier this week there had been a gathering of 22 past world champions, Olympic champions and record-breakers in Budapest, but Lyles’ point was still an entirely valid one.

And, while the star names he mentioned might not have been there to see it in person, the current generation served up a thrilling finale to day seven of the championships.