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Athletics

Is Erriyon Knighton the man to break Usain Bolt’s records?

The 18-year-old US sprinter ran a 200m time of 19.49 in Baton Rouge, the fourth-fastest in history. At the same age Bolt’s mark was 19.94.

Update:
Erriyon Knighton at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 200m was Usain Bolt’s favourite discipline, and Erriyon Knighton is swiftly becoming the new athletics star over the distance. The 18-year-old US sprinter is already faster around the bend and on the final straight than the Jamaican great was at the same age: in exact terms, 44 hundredths of a second faster. Knighton broke the under-20 200m record at the Louisiana State University meet in Baton Rouge on Saturday with a time of 19.49, the fourth-fastest 200m ever run (with wind assistance of +1.4).

Knighton on track to beat Bolt’s 200m world record

Having taken Bolt’s under-18 200m world record with a time of 20.11 seconds in May 2021, Knighton has now cemented his place as the sprinter most likely to break the Jamaican’s absolute world record of 19.19, set in Berlin in 2009.

Born in Tampa, Florida, Knighton is an imposing figure, standing at 6 ft 3 in and weighing in at 170 lbs (77 kilos). After breaking Bolt’s junior records at the age of 17 he went on to shatter his own under-20 record in Baton Rouge, which he set at last year’s Olympic trials with a time of 19.84. At the Tokyo Olympic, he finished fourth in the 200m final with a time of 19.93, which has just shaved almost half a second off.

Bolt was already a prodigy at the age of 18 and Knighton appears set to follow in the footsteps of the Jamaican 100m and 200m world record holder. The US sprinter was signed by Adidas last year and turned professional straight from Hillsborough High School, skipping the final two years of his amateur career and going on to become the youngest male track and field athlete to represent the US at the Olympics since Jim Ryun in 1964.

Bolt’s progression in the 200m

At the age of 17, Bolt ran a time of 19.93, at 18 his best time was 19.94 and at the age of 20 he lowered that to 19.75. A year later, he ran 19.30 and at 22 he recorded his best time of 19.19 at the Berlin World Championships, setting the world record. Knighton, at 18, can only be compared to Bolt’s times at the same age but he ran 19.84 at 17 and now 19.49 at the age of 18. Where he can go from here is anyone’s guess, but Bolt’s record no longer looks as unbeatable as it once did.

To put his run in Baton Rouge into context, before that race Knighton was the 35th fastest man over the distance in history. Now he is the fourth, behind Bolt (19.19), Yohan Blake (19.26) and Michael Johnson (19.32), leaving sprinting greats such as Noah Lyles (19.50), Justin Gatlin (19.57) and Andre De Grasse in his wake.

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