MONACO, Monaco, Aug 14 – American world champion Noah Lyles made a clenched-fist, black-gloved salute before storming to a convincing victory in the men’s 200m as competitive track and field resumed in Monaco on Friday in a season almost wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting in lane seven, Lyles burned around the opening bend before powering down the home strait to clock 19.76 seconds.
The time was just off the meeting record of 19.65sec Lyles himself set in 2018, but bettered this season’s world leading time of 19.80sec set earlier this week by American Kenneth Bednarek.
The victory was the perfect tonic for Lyles, who won the world 200 metres and the 4x100m relay in Doha last year, but has admitted to psychological problems worsened by the “perfect storm” of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Black Lives Matter movement and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics at which he was hotly tipped for success.
That admission surprised many, coming from an athlete whose bubbly, seemingly outgoing personality had pundits marking him down as a natural successor for now-retired Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt.
– Feeling the stress –
Wearing a black glove on his right hand, Lyles raised his fist to the air when introduced to a masked crowd limited to 5,000 in line with COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“Being on the circuit is very good, I’m a very social person and when I can’t get that, it takes away from my needs and my normal behaviour,” Lyles said.
“That’s where I start to feel stressed and trying to cope with that over quarantine has been very hard.”
The 23-year-old had warned that he was targeting another fast race on the newly-laid track at the Stade Louis II.
His previous “competitive” outing was part of the cross-country virtual Zurich Diamond League, which saw him competing in a 200m which course setters had wrongly put at 185m.
But Lyles’ victory in the principality was never in doubt, coming home ahead of younger brother Josephus (20.30) — making just his third Diamond League appearance.
“It’s a lot better to be out here competing instead of being in your backyard,” said Lyles.
“Racing on home tracks really felt like practice and I wanted to compete, feel the pressure with the other athletes, get that excitment.”
Lyles added: “I have high expectations for myself so I’d say the race got the Noah stamp of approval but not the Noah satisfaction stamp!
“The race went well today so I’ll just do this again for the next races.”
2017 world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey could only finish fifth in 20.80sec, just behind fellow sub-20sec sprinter Adam Gemili, the Briton timing 20.68sec.