Noah Lyles is quickly becoming a household name around the world after making his mark as one of the greatest sprinters in history.
After clocking a 19.47 second time at the Diamond League meet in London in July 2023, Lyles now holds the record – previously held by Usain Bolt – for the most 200m sprints run in under 20 seconds. This is the 35th time Lyles has accomplished that feat – and he’s only aged 26.
The new king of the tracks is now heading to the 2023 World Championships in Budapest as the world’s fastest man this year, and third fastest over 200m of all time. He now has his sights set on breaking Bolt’s record.
Lyles is built for speed – quite literally – as the son of two athletics champions in their own right.
But as he focuses on the track – where he has admitted struggles with mental health – the native Floridian has also maintained a host of other ventures away from athletics, including a part-time rap career, and an anime obsession.
Lyles was born in Gainesville, Florida, in July 1997 to track stars Keisha Caine and Kevin Lyles. Both parents competed in track and field at Seton Hall University.
His mom Keisha was a nine-time All-American – an honor designated to amateur athletes considered one of the best in their sports – who also won the 4x400m relay twice at the National Collegiate Athletics Association.
Dad Kevin was an alternate for the US at the 1995 world championships where his team won gold.
After initially being thrown into gymnastics, Lyles eventually followed in his family’s path and took to the track at the age of 12.
It didn’t take him long to get going as he clinched gold at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in the 200m, and a host of other junior medals.
Amid his rise to stardom, Lyles hasn’t been shy to address the toll he has felt becoming an elite sportsman, and has been consistently frank about his struggles with mental health.
‘After world champs – even before the World Championships [in Doha in 2019]– I was just in Europe for so long and I was getting really homesick,’ he said in an Instagram livestream in 2020.
‘And to be honest I thought about going home so many times because I was getting really depressed, and I was getting into that mindset of I barely want to even train anymore.’
‘My mum was like, ”I think it’s time for you to go on antidepressants”, and I was like, ”Yeah, I think you’re right”.’
He explained his decision on Twitter in October 2020: ‘Recently I decided to get on antidepressant medication. That was one of the best decisions I have made in a while.
‘Since then I have been able to think without the dark undertone in mind of nothing matters. Thank you God for mental Health.’
While Lyles’ main focus has been athletics, he has pursued several other interests outside of the sport including music.
Alongside his track career, he has released music under the penname Nojo18 – first releasing single Speed Racer in 2018, and then his first full-length album in April of 2020 titled A Humans Journey.
In further hobbies away from the track, Lyles is a manga and anime obsessive – Japanese comics, graphic novels, and cartoons.
As he made his World Championships debut in Doha in 2019, Lyles stepped out with a gleaming silver hair in tribute to one of his favourite and one of the most popular characters in anime, Goku from Dragon Ball Z.
He told The Washington Post at the time: ‘In Dragon Ball Z, Goku’s final stage, or form, is Ultra Instinct.
‘His hair turns silver/grey. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to make the team. I’m in my highest state.’
In the midst of the Covid pandemic in 2020, Lyles sat down for a live-streamed catch up with seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
‘My favorite anime is Full Metal Alchemist,’ he said, explaining: ‘there are two versions – Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. I truthfully like both versions for different reasons, but I usually watch Brotherhood more.
‘And then my favourite manga is called Garden of Eden. It was one of the first long mangas I ever read. And I got like truly into the world.
‘I was staying up late, and this is when I was in middle school. And I’m reading this from 9pm to 3am when I was supposed to be sleeping.
‘And my mom’s like, ‘Why are you so tired?’ I’m like, ‘I was reading’ and then she got excited. But then when I told her what it was, she didn’t seem so excited.’