DOHA (Reuters) - American Noah Lyles shot to 200 meters world championships gold on Tuesday, providing a bright finish to a day darkened by yet another doping scandal.
The showman Lyles, his hair dyed silver after a heroic anime character, kicked off what many predict will be a glittering career by winning his first world title by storming across the line unthreatened in a time off 19.83 seconds.
Canada’s Andre De Grasse, the Rio Olympic silver medalist behind Usain Bolt, was second again in 19.95 while Ecuador’s Alex Quinonez took the bronze by clocking 19.98.
It was a brilliant finish to a day of competition clouded by a drugs controversy that began with renowned American coach Alberto Salazar being banned for four years for doping violations.
The news landed like a grenade right smack in the middle of the International Association of Athletics Federations’s (IAAF) showcase world championships, adding another headache to an event already dogged by criticism over sparse attendance and searing heat.
Nothing, however, could distract Lyles from his goal.
The 22-year-old was behind coming out of the blocks but powered into the lead through the corner and was in complete command to the finish.
“So many times this year I have thought about being world champion, you wouldn’t believe it,” said Lyles.
“I have it on my phone, I say it to myself in my car, I think it all the time and to have finally done it feels unbelievable.
“I don’t know how many people come to their first world championships and get a gold medal but I have done it.
“I just knew that no matter what position I found myself in, I would find a way to come through.
Charismatic, brash and very fast, Lyles’ dominating and entertaining performance in Doha will only increase talk that he is the man to take over from Usain Bolt as the new face of the sport.
He is more than just a sprinting machine.
Lyles, an aspiring rap artist who has strolled down the Paris catwalks and runs to his own beat, ticks many of the boxes that could one day make him athletics’ leading man.
“Don’t say I’m the new Bolt,” pleaded Lyles. “I’m me.
“If you like me I will happily entertain you.
“It’s my time.”
The 200m final offered a small glimpse of a much needed rivalry that the sport also needs.
After spending two years battling injuries, De Grasse was back in fighting form in Doha as he picked up a pair of medals, the 200m silver and a bronze in the 100m.
“He (Lyles) is young,” said the 24-year-old De Grasse.
“I’m looking forward to battles with him in the future. He kind of reminded me of my younger self the way he runs.
“Our starts are not that great but our acceleration when we come off the bend and the run home.
“We run kind of alike.”
Additional reporting Gene Cherry and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber. Editing by Pritha Sarkar