Athletics: Lyles blasts to 200m win to banish Covid-19 woes

MONACO (AFP) – American world champion Noah Lyles stormed to a convincing victory in the men’s 200m as competitive track and field resumed in Monaco on Friday (Aug 14) 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.

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.

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.

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.

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