Since Usain Bolt retired, no athlete has dominated the sprints. Expectations, however, are building around US teenage sprinting sensation Erriyon Knighton. All eyes will be on Knighton when he turns up at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.
On May 1, the 18-year-old became the fourth-fastest man in the 200 metres when he clocked 19.49 seconds at the Baton Rouge meet in Los Angeles, breaking his previous best of 19.84sec. It was also the fastest anyone has run the 200m since the 2012 Olympics.
The American sprinter surpassed sprint legends Carl Lewis and Tommy Smith and put himself only behind Jamaica's world record holder Bolt (19.19s), another Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26s), and American Michael Johnson (19.32s).
At the US Olympic Trials a year ago, Knighton became the youngest track and field athlete for the United States to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Though he failed to make the podium, he came fourth and stamped his class.
Now he owns the World U-20 record. His two mind-boggling runs in a span of a year as a pre-adult athlete enabled him to break Bolt's junior world record - 19.93s - achieved in the heats in Jamaica's U-20 nationals in 2004.
Incidentally, sprinting was never Knighton's first love. He was supposed to enrol himself in medical school. The talent would have gone to waste had his Hillsborough High School coach not used him as a wide receiver in inter-college (American) football. Playing at the attacking position proved to be a gamechanger for Knighton as it helped him realise his potential as a sprinter.
At the age of 16, in 2019, he took up sprinting seriously, and a couple of years later became the youngest American to make the track and field Olympic team since Jim Ryun in 1964. As he made a mark as a junior athlete, Adidas soon signed him to pave the way for his professional debut.
The American is a quick learner and, in four years, has improved his timing from 21.15sec in 2019 to 19.49sec in 2022, which is the season's fastest timing in 200m.
There is already a buzz around Knighton and his contest with countryman Noah Lyles in the 200m. Lyles has the season's second-best timing of 19.61 to his credit and won this year's USATF Championships.
If Knighton wins, he will become the youngest athlete ever to win a sprint event at the World Athletics Championship.
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