Michael Johnson column: Noah Lyles’ bold statements bring pressure – but that motivates him

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Michael Johnson column graphic

Venue: Budapest Dates: 19-27 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and app; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds; live text on evening sessions.

It was difficult to imagine a scenario in which Noah Lyles would not win 200m gold and complete his sprint double at the World Championships.

One of the things which makes the American unique is that he talks a big game but, equally, he is comfortable with the pressure which comes with that.

He doesn’t shy away from it and I think Lyles does it because it motivates him.

I would know, because I was the same way.

I wanted to be the favourite. I wanted to be the one out there making bold statements about what I wanted to do. I believed in my talent. I think that is how Lyles sees it too.

The 26-year-old, who won his first global 100m title last week, makes the bold statements because he wants the focus to be on him. He said he would win three golds in Budapest – and even break a world record.

As a result, he knows he has to deliver, which makes him perform better.

For others, that can cause them to perform much worse. But that is where it is important to know yourself as an athlete and what you need to perform at your best. Lyles has figured that out.

The key to winning multiple titles is being able to sustain a high level of performance. It’s a question of whether you can get the best from yourself consistently and continue to push the bar higher and higher.

Lyles is still motivated. He likes being the superstar and having the attention – and that will continue to drive him.

Let’s not forget either that Lyles is not the Olympic champion. He had to settle for 200m bronze behind Andre De Grasse and Kenny Bednarek at the Tokyo Games. Winning that gold next year still motivates him.

He has also now shown he is a contender for the 100m, so there is no reason he would not aim to win both at Paris 2024.

‘Hughes right to be happy but concern for Asher-Smith’

Britain’s Zharnel Hughes has every reason to be happy with his performance at these championships after earning his first global medal, with bronze in the 100m.

But I do think he missed an opportunity in the 200m. Behind Lyles the times were not out of reach.

While Hughes will be pleased with his performance at these championships, he must make sure that he avoids becoming complacent if he wants to continue to win medals.

The 28-year-old has to continue to raise his game. He has shown he has the ability to challenge.

It is a similar scenario for team-mate Daryll Neita, who has had a great season.

After missing out on the 100m final, she ran two personal bests during the 200m competition. She has to keep pushing if she wants to continue to get into finals, and even contend for medals.

Dina Asher-Smith has to figure out what is going on.

The former 200m champion’s performances here have been very disappointing and her lack of ability to articulate what the problem has been is concerning as well.

But, at the same time, she is the kind of person who does not reveal a lot.

Asher-Smith has always kept things internal. I think that is how she protected herself early on in her career. She knows how she best handles the pressure and expectation.

That is fine when you’re winning medals, but when you are underperforming it becomes a problem because you have fans that want to know what is going on. What you’re telling them is that you don’t quite know yourself.

In the women’s 200m final, I thought there there might be a chance that Gabby Thomas could challenge Shericka Jackson, given the American had run the fastest time this year.

Jackson was clearly disappointed after coming second in the 100m. She wanted to win that gold and she believed this was her year.

The Jamaican athletes generally tend not to show many signs of stress before a race. What was noticeable with Jackson when she came out for the 100m was that she looked very serious.

She may have been a bit tight in the 100m, leading to that underperformance. On Friday she was able to put that behind her, turning it on to run the second-fastest 200m of all time and win the gold she really wanted.

If I had to choose my standout race among the sprints in Budapest it would have to be the women’s 100m. That was the one we all believed would be the best, regardless of who won, and the final did not disappoint.

That the winner ended up being Sha’Carri Richardson, taking gold in the way that she did it, was just unbelievable.

The 23-year-old, who had never competed at a major championships, has a huge personality and a super-high profile. People have been talking about her for years because of her tremendous potential. She almost didn’t make the final – only to win it in a championship record time.

Michael Johnson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Harry Poole.



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