After winning the world 200m title and a second gold as part of the winning US 4x100m relay team in Doha in 2019, Noah Lyles headed to last year’s Tokyo Olympics with high hopes.
But the American sprinter had, by his high standards, a Summer Games to forget, returning with just a bronze in the 200m behind Canadian winner Andre de Grasse and US teammate Kenneth Bednarek.
The relay team, also featuring Olympic 100m silver medallist Fred Kerley, failed to make the final, Kerley’s handover to Ronnie Baker a botched effort that lost valuable tenths of seconds.
Lyles had complained in Tokyo of feeling a level of isolation amid strict health and safety regulations because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the holding of the world championships in Eugene, Oregon – the first time the event has been held in the United States – has totally changed the landscape, according to Lyles.
“It’s completely different from Tokyo, it’s an exact 180 I’d say,” said the 24-year-old.
“One, being on home soil; two, having my brother; three, having my whole family here.
“Everything I didn’t have in Tokyo I now have in these world championships.”
Lyles’ younger brother Josephus has been included in the relay squad, having failed to make the cut for the 200m roster in the ultra-competitive world of US sprinting.
His time of 19.93 seconds at the US trials would have seen him make virtually any other nation’s line-up.
Noah Lyles said having his brother in tow meant not only that their rivalry “makes us both better”, but also that he didn’t have to go to lunch by himself.
“It’s better to have your brother there, your best friend,” he said.
“It’s exactly what we’ve been waiting for since we turned pro.”
The Lyles brothers recently attended a US relay camp, but Noah was coy when pressed on details.
“The handovers were good, way more experience than other years,” he said.
He then deadpanned: “When I’m on the relay we aren’t losing, point blank, and we might break the world record!”
Kerley was also part of the relay camp, but the 400m bronze medallist from the Doha worlds was taciturn when quizzed on whether he was ready to become the face of the track should he triumph in the blue riband 100m.
“I feel like everyone in track and field wants to be a figurehead, it’s all about getting the job done,” said Kerley.
“The ceiling is so high you’ve just got to continue doing what you’ve got to do to be successful in this sport.
“I believe in myself first and foremost,” he said. “I put the work in to be great, I don’t come to run to be second best.
“I’m grateful to be one of the favourites… Get it done on home soil.”
Italy’s Marcell Jacobs is the reigning Olympic champion, snatching gold as a rank outsider in Tokyo.
But his season has been dogged by injury, leaving the door open for a potential third-ever US cleansweep in the 100m, in which American Christian Coleman will be defending his title after being banned from Tokyo for missing three doping tests.