Fun & Games: Lyles wants to win, celebrate just like Bolt

Fun & Games: Lyles wants to win, celebrate just like Bolt

The most promising signal that track and field remains in good hands even after Usain Bolt’s retirement comes from a 22-year-old American named Noah Lyles , who appreciates the Jamaican superstar more for what he did after his races than during them.

When Lyles spends time studying Bolt on video, he’s not only looking at the lanky speedster’s form in between the lanes, but at the dancing, rollicking post-race celebrations Bolt concocted to make his sport can’t-miss viewing whenever he was on the track.

“I saw more of his fun-loving side and liked that more than I liked actually watching him run,” Lyles said in a recent interview as he prepares for the world championships that begin next weekend in Doha, Qatar. “I was interested in what was his way of making people want to watch the sport. And that’s what I believe I took the most from.”

The next two years will be daunting for track and field , as it tries to regain — or retain — its niche in the post-Bolt landscape. This week marks the beginning of the first world championships without Bolt since 2003. In less than a year, track will take its act to the Olympics, sans Bolt, for the first time since 2000.

Lyles knows there will be comparisons. Two months ago, he ran 19.50 in the 200 metres, the distance Bolt considered his specialty and at which he holds a world record — 19.19 seconds — that many in the sport feel will be hardest to top.

But Lyles, the charismatic sprinter — sound familiar? — who grew up in Florida before moving to Virginia, isn’t daunted by that.

And while Lyles will be trying for three gold medals at next year’s Tokyo Olympics — in the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay, a la Bolt — he’s focusing solely on the 200 at world championships , because, in his words, “I have a very strong chance of winning that 200. I also have a very strong chance of trying to break some meet records.” (Bolt’s world record was set at world championships in 2009).

If he does, then the track world will certainly want to scoop up every little tidbit it can about its newest, fastest man.

Among them:

Lyles is an apparel designer (check out his socks collection ) and a budding musician who produced a hip-hop album that focuses on the cycle teenagers go through in acting out. He considers himself a cross between Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Kanye West and Jaden Smith.

“I’m still trying to find my own flow,” Lyles said.

Whether it was on the track, or on the dance floor, or spinning records at his own dance club in Kingston, few were able to make the switch between the athletic field and the nightclub as seamlessly as Bolt. In fact, sometimes they felt like one and the same.

Though the comparisons are sure to come in all these venues, the 5-foot-11 Lyles believes there’s a benefit to never having lined up, mano a mano, against the 6-foot-5 Jamaican.

“It helps my career being able to say that I wasn’t beaten by Bolt,” said Lyles , who along with his younger brother, Josephus, signed a long-term deal with Adidas in 2016, passing on a chance to run at the University of Florida. “If I (had been), then I would have that overwhelming gloom of, ‘Oh, but you got beat by Bolt that one time.’ And then you’d have that conversation of, ‘Oh, but I was only 19.’”

They did meet once — in a doctor’s office in Germany before the 2017 world championships. Lyles, who was there to get his hamstring checked out, went over Bolt in the waiting area and introduced himself.

“Of course he’s a cool guy,” Lyles said. “He’s got world records.”

Could those records someday belong to Lyles? And if they do, could he be the sort of personality who would make people want to watch?

“He just wants to be the first Noah Lyles and that’s all he thinks about,” his coach, Lance Brauman, said. “He’s not caught up in the rigmarole about saving the sport — or being the next this or being the next that.

“He’s got the personality, has a lot of talent and likes to train. He’s got a few good qualities right there.”

He certainly stands out in a crowd — spraying his hair silver will tend to do that (he did that for U.S. championships and plans to again in Doha).

He certainly can dance, too, breaking out a few moves after winning at nationals. Then, he posed for pictures with fans. He was in no hurry to leave the stage.

“Noah’s a rock star,” said Justin Gatlin, the reigning 100-meter world champion. “He likes to put on a show.”

In short, Lyles gets it: Lots of people run fast. But Bolt’s celebrations are what made the victories so memorable.

“I could be the fastest and I could have the most medals, but are they going to remember that when I leave? Probably not,” Lyles said. “Because somebody else is going to come by and do the same thing. But everybody will remember Bolt’s personality.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eva Pennock got an unlikely visit from a horse at a Three Hills Health Care Centre. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Pennock)
Unlikely visitor brings cheer to residents at Three Hills Health Care Centre

An unlikely visitor spread some cheer and good tidings this week at… Continue reading

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Zero tax increase approved by Red Deer city council for 2021 and 2022

City council passed operating budgets for the next two years on Thursday

Red Deer city council approved a $39.6 million police budget for 2021, up for inflationary reasons from $37.9 million in 2020. (Black Press file photo).
Red Deer city council retains police funding, while also launching a crisis team

De-funding police is not a conversation in this municipality

Alberta reported an additional 1,854 cases of COVID-19 Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories)
Red Deer has 289 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

The Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer has new owners. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer has new ownership group

‘They’re making an investment in this iconic hotel for the future,’ says general manager Gil Vallee

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Police are on the lookout for Hugo Strohschein, 85, was last seen shortly before 10 p.m. on Dec. 3 in Red Deer. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP seek help to locate missing 85-year-old man

The Red Deer RCMP is hoping for the public’s help to locate… Continue reading

A masked worker walks behind a hiring sign on his way into the Dover Cliffs long term care home in Port Dover, Ont., Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Statistics Canada will say this morning how Canada's job market fared last month as COVID-19 case counts rose along with a new round of public health restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian economy added 62,000 jobs in November, Statistics Canada says

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the economy added 62,000 jobs in November… Continue reading

Bank towers are shown from Bay Street in Toronto's financial district, on Wednesday, June 16, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrien Veczan
North American stocks up in early trading, loonie tops 78 cents US

TORONTO — Gains in the mining and metals sector helped lift Canada’s… Continue reading

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori delivers a speech after an opening plenary session of the three-party meeting on Tokyo 2020 Games additional costs due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo, Friday, Dec 4, 2020. (Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics delay costs may reach $2.8 billion

TOKYO — The cost of the postponement for the Tokyo Olympics could… Continue reading

President-elect Joe Biden departs a news conference after introducing his nominees and appointees to economic policy posts at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Among first acts, Biden to call for 100 days of mask-wearing

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to… Continue reading

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2013, file photo of A.P. Moller-Maersk’s oil rig in the North Sea named Halfdan. Denmark has decided to end to all oil and gas offshore activities in the North Sea by 2050 and has cancelled its latest licensing round, saying the country is “now putting an end to the fossil era.” The Danish Parliament voted late Thursday to end the offshore gas and oil extraction that started in 1972 and has made it the largest producer in the European Union. (Claus Bonnerup/Polfoto via AP,file)
Denmark to end oil, gas extraction in North Sea

COPENHAGEN — Denmark has decided to end all oil and gas activities… Continue reading

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country’s merchandise trade deficit was $3.8 billion in October as both exports and imports climbed higher. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Statistics Canada says merchandise trade deficit held stead in October at $3.8B

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the country’s merchandise trade deficit held steady… Continue reading

An employee works in a warehouse with dry ice outside at the Pfizer Manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. British officials on Wednesday authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, greenlighting the world’s first shot against the virus that’s backed by rigorous science and taking a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
UK defends vaccine decision amid criticism it moved too fast

LONDON — U.K. regulators went on the offensive Friday to beat back… Continue reading

Most Read