Noah Lyles danced across the red track of Hayward Field. He claps his hand, takes a selfie with his fans and smiles as if he had won another world championship.
He wasn’t. He won the qualifying on Monday at his signature event, the 200m dash. He was in yet another race, three nights away from his up-and-coming rival Erriyon Knighton. Erriyon Knighton is a teenage athletics wonder that Lyles, who turned 25 on Monday, wasn’t that long ago.
But most importantly, when Lyles appeared light-years away from that heavy and hot night in Tokyo last year, he was most expected to win after winning the bronze medal at 200. It broke down at.
Lyles wasn’t dancing that night, and even the fans he waved weren’t in the stadium, let alone share photos. That night, he was another of a series of prominent athletes in the game to talk to the world about fighting mental health, turning antidepressants on and off, and preventing wins and losses from defining him. did.
“Many jobs, many cures,” Lyles said Monday night about how he arrived at such another place, despite the lasting pressure to reestablish his hegemony.
Its evolution was difficult to predict a year ago. Perhaps it was difficult to imagine how acceptable it would be to share the fight against mental health in much the same way that elite athletes talk about their knees. Pain and muscle aches. But that’s what happened more widely in both Lyles and sports.
Last year, Lane Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles. Simone Biles, the world’s top gymnast. And one of the best tennis players, Naomi Osaka, became open about the fight for mental health and moved away from their pursuit.
On Monday, Lyles explained a series of epiphanies and the end of a less good relationship. It had a dramatic and positive impact on his mental state and was combined to better understand why he devoted much of his life. Trying to run in the middle of the track faster than anyone else.
One of those perceptions came to him last winter at Millrose Games, a winter indoor conference in New York City. Lyles signed on to the race in 1960, but didn’t know why. He wasn’t good at this event, he was surrounded by good champions.
“How did you get into this race?” He remembered.
Then he saw a social media post about running as a kind of theater with Lyles as one of the stars from Michael Johnson, a four-time Olympic gold medalist famous for gold spikes.
“People were told they would go because they enjoy watching you run, not going to the race to see people run,” Lyles said. “It told me.”
The second epiphany occurred during a therapy session. He talked about how frustrated he was with his performance last year, especially at the Olympics. It was average, at least for him, but it’s worth noting that his average version is running 200 in 19.7 seconds. Usain Bolt’s world record is 19.19.
His therapist explained that he is a performer in nature and that a performer needs an audience. For almost two years, the pandemic robbed him of it and culminated in the Olympics. There, athletics took place in an almost empty stadium, which should have been flooded with 70,000 screaming fans.
“If the crowd isn’t there, you’re going to run on average,” Lyles said his therapist told him.
And suddenly some of his sadness last year makes more sense to him. Other units were also working. There was also a unit that Lyles stripped naked in his tearful night in Tokyo.
He felt guilty about his brother Josephus’ participation in the Olympics, even though he did not. For years, countless people had told him that he was supposed to be the next Usain Bolt, but he was just trying to understand his own identity. He fights depression and also suffers from mental illness, including childhood treatment after seeing her son share some of her emotional traits. Decided to be open about his mental health.
“I’m not defined as an Olympic bronze medalist, a gold medal world champion, or a professional high school student,” he said that night. “It’s not who I am. Noah Lyles. I’m not the successor to Usain Bolt. I’m not the successor to Andre De Grasse. I’m not the successor to anyone. I’m me. And that’s the person I’m always with. “
On Thursday night, Lyles will take over Knighton, an 18-year-old phenom seen as the successor to him and Bolt in the track circle. Knighton finished fourth in Tokyo in 200 and broke Bolt’s junior record in the distance.
In Oregon so far, Knighton is calm, calm, and fast. Compared to Lyles’ 19.62, he won the semi-final heat in 19.77 seconds.
Knighton described Lyles as a “good friend” on Tuesday.
“We try to push each other on the track as much as possible,” he said of Lyles.
The comparison with Bolt and the expectations his performance brought did not change him, Knighton said. He is the same person as last year, but with one difference.
“I’m fast,” he said.
For Lyles, the difference is hard to exaggerate.
“It was 2018 that I had such a good time,” he said in Eugene. “I have energy, I’m in good shape, and it’s like,” Come on, let’s have fun. ” “