IN THE END, it was inevitable. The stadium announcers saved 2-time 200 champion Noah Lyles for last, and timing it so that the rest of the field had to stand at attention at their blocks and watch as Lyles walked toward them, gesturing to the crowd as if he were already celebrating the victory to come. Yet as much as his competitors wanted to take him down, the day belonged to Lyles, who completed a double no man has succeeded at since Usain Bolt last did it in Beijing in 2015.
A convincing win in the 100 final three days earlier only tilted the odds more in the 26-year-old’s favor. Throughout the week, Lyles beamed confidence, and even being one of the passengers in a golf cart crash en route to the semis did not shake that vibe. Nothing could.
The Wednesday prelims saw him glide through with a 20.05 win. He wasn’t the fastest in the first round. That honor went to Britain’s Zharnel Hughes in 19.99, with Kenny Bednarek at 20.01. All of the prime contenders advanced.
The semis came on Thursday night, and Lyles turned up the heat. First, though, came the cart crash, which left Lyles unscathed but put a glass shard into the eye of Jamaican Andrew Hudson. They had both been scheduled to run in semi I. Officials quickly shuffled the races to give them time to collect themselves, and put semi II on the track first.
Bednarek won in 19.96, crossing the line with Motswana Letsile Tebogo (19.97). American Courtney Lindsey in 3rd (20.22) would not advance. Canadian Aaron Brown would be DQed for a lane violation.
Semi III came up next, and teen Erriyon Knighton showed his fitness with a 19.98–20.02 decision over Hughes. ’19 champion Andre De Grasse (20.10) and Joe Fahnbulleh (20.21) came next and would fill the two time-qualifying slots in the final.
Finally, semi I was up, and Lyles decided it was time to flex. He pulled away effortlessly on the straight, finishing his 19.76 with a smirk. The Dominican Republic’s Alexander Ogando (20.02) got 2nd. Hudson competed, though he said it was a bit blurry, clocking 20.38 in 5th. Officials advanced him to empty lane 1 in the final.
Expectations ran high for Friday night’s climactic race, with many observers surely thinking about the 19.10 World Record that Lyles had predicted several weeks earlier. He stood in lane 6, with teammates Bednarek (7) and Knighton (8) to his…