World class: Lyles leads new cast eager to make their mark
By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Noah Lyles showed off his superior speed in the 200 meters at nationals. Then, his dance moves .
Both are in world-class form.
The 22-year-old Lyles, Christian Coleman, Rai Benjamin and Shakima Wimbley are part of the next wave of athletes ready to make their mark.
For now, at the world championships this fall in Doha, Qatar.
In a year, they just might be some of the names bringing home medals at the Tokyo Olympics, too.
“They’re younger and they can get out of bed and feel nothing. I feel new stuff every day,” lamented 34-year Michael Rodgers, who’s qualified in the 100 for worlds. “But they push me to work harder.”
Coleman vs. Lyles.
Now that should be an entertaining showdown for years to come. They gave a glimpse at nationals, with Lyles cruising to the win over Coleman. After crossing the finish line, Lyles, still on the run, reached over to shake hands with Coleman.
After that, the real show was on. Lyles held one finger up to the crowd as if to say, wait a second, something big is about to go down — and proceeded to break out a high-energy dance. Later, he perched himself on a railing as he took selfie after selfie with the fans.
Lyles possesses plenty of personality and panache. He even colored his hair silver just for nationals. Obviously, the more fitting choice would’ve obviously been gold.
“This was one of the things I wanted to happen this year and the highest on the list,” Lyles said.
Time to update that list.
Coleman captured the 100 title at nationals. His main adversary in Doha just might be 37-year-old Justin Gatlin, who’s the defending champion.
“He’s a beast,” Coleman said of Gatlin. “He’s going to go down as an all-time great.”
Some new names to know heading into world championships:
MICHAEL NORMAN AND BENJAMIN
They’re roommates in Los Angeles and practice rivals. Norman runs the 400, finishing second behind Fred Kerley at nationals. Benjamin specializes in the 400 hurdles, winning the event on his 22nd birthday.
When he was younger, Benjamin represented Antigua on the international stage. But after a lengthy process, he was cleared in October to compete for the red, white and blue.
“I know what to expect and how to handle the nerves and how to race when everyone is watching you,” Benjamin said.
WIMBLEY & THE WOMEN’S 400 CREW
Allyson Felix didn’t race her way into the top three in the 400 as she worked her way back from giving birth. The field remains strong, led by the 24-year-old Wimbley. Also going are Kendall Ellis — who won a gold medal as part of the 4×400 world relay team — and Wadeline Jonathas, the recent NCAA champion from South Carolina.
DANIEL ROBERTS & GRANT HOLLOWAY
Holloway of Florida edged Roberts of Kentucky in the 110-meter hurdles at the NCAA championships in June. Both then went pro.
At nationals, Roberts edged Holloway.
“For both of us to execute at the highest level and go represent Team USA, it’s a blessing,” Holloway said.
Daniels was a surprise winner in the 100 after taking fourth at NCAA championships a month earlier. The University of Texas product will be joined in Doha by English Gardner and Morolake Akinosun, who’s rounding into form after tearing her Achilles in February 2018.
“I spent the last year not just training, but rehabbing and doubting myself and trusting in myself and just figuring out how to get back to where I know I should be and where I can be,” Akinosun said.
OK, so maybe this isn’t a new name. It’s good to get reacquainted, though. The 34-year-old Lomong was the U.S. flag bearer in the opening ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Games. He’s one of the “Lost Boys from Sudan ,” fleeing Sudan to avoid a militia group when he was a kid. He lived in a refugee camp for 10 years and became an American citizen in 2007.
Lomong made the 2012 Olympic team, but injuries have hampered him for years. Healthy again, he made the team by winning the 10,000 meters. He also won the 5,000 , but doesn’t have the world qualifying standard.
Bottom line: He’s going.
“I really, really wanted this,” Lomong said.
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