Noah Lyles talked the talk and backed it up.
The 26-year-old, already the two-time defending World Athletics champion in the 200 meters, said earlier this year that his goal for this year’s worlds was to become the first man since Usain Bolt in 2015 to claim the 100m-200m double at Worlds.
On Sunday in Budapest, he got the first — and less likely — gold medal he needs to make that goal reality, winning the 100 meters in a lifetime best and world leading 9.83 seconds.
Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo was the silver medalist in 9.88 seconds and Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes won bronze in 9.88 seconds (he was one one-thousandth behind Tebogo). For as successful as athletes from African nations have been in long-distance events, Tebogo is the first man from an African country to medal in the 100m.
When Lyles began declaring that he wanted to win 100m gold, it seemed a little far-fetched: while he is sensational in the 200m, posting the third-fastest in the event ever and having only lost twice in the event in his professional career, he hadn’t previously made a U.S. team in the 100m for a global championship.
That all changed this year.
Lyles finished third in the 100m at the U.S. championships in July, which got him the spot he needed. He has spent a great deal of training time working on his start, which has been the weakest part of his racing. Getting a great start out of the blocks is critical for the 100m.
He got faster and faster through the three rounds in Budapest, with 9.95 seconds in his opening heat and then 9.87 seconds in his semifinal race.
With his gold medal hanging around his neck and an American flag draped over his shoulders, Lyles told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson that his coach, Lance Brauman, told him after the semis that he didn’t have to change a thing for the finals.
When the gun went off, fellow American and 2019 world titlist Christian Coleman had his typical stellar start and he and Tebogo were leading midway through the race. But Lyles’ 200m strength and composure were assets as usual and he overtook both over the closing 25-30 meters.
Coleman faded to fifth, finishing in 9.92 seconds.
An American man has now won the 100m for four straight Worlds, with Lyles following Justin Gatlin in 2017, Coleman in 2019, and Fred Kerley in 2022.
Lyles is favored to win the 200m, with opening rounds in that event coming on Wednesday.
Also during Sunday’s evening session, American Tara Davis-Woodhall got her first world medal, finishing second in the long jump (6.91 meters; 22 feet, 8 inches) to veteran Ivana Vuelta of Serbia, who won gold with a world leading 7.14 meters (23-5). With living legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee cheering her on, Anna Hall was silver medalist in the heptathlon with 6720 points; Katerina Johnson-Thompson of Great Britain was gold medalist with 6740 points.
Hall went into the 800m, the final event of the heptathlon, in third place overall but is a very strong 800 runner, stronger than Johnson-Thompson and the Netherlands’ Anouk Vetter, who was in second place. Hall needed to beat Johnson-Thompson by at least three seconds to get enough points to overtake her for gold, and while she did post 2:04.09, she pushed Johnson-Thompson to run a lifetime best of 2:05.63 so she could claim her second world championship (2019).