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Lyles celebrates 25th with cruise through world qualifying

Lyles celebrates 25th with cruise through world qualifying

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Noah Lyles celebrated his 25th birthday Monday by running the fastest time in 200-metre qualifying at world track and field championships, a 19.98-second romp that he punctuated by playfully wagging his finger at the six other sprinters straggling behind. 

Lyles, last year’s Olympic bronze medallist, was part of a cavalcade of the world’s best sprinters — including 100 champions Fred Kerley and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and 18-years-old Erriyon Knighton — who cruised through the first heats of the 200 without much fuss.

Last month, Lyles beat Knighton to the line at nationals and wagged his finger at the teenager labeled as the future of the sport. Knighton didn’t take kindly to it, but on this, a night starting to ramp up for the final Thursday night, both sprinters downplayed the episode — at least for now. 

“It’s a real chill,” Knighton said. “There’s no beef or nothing. At the end of the day, it’s just a sport.”

Canada’s Aaron Brown overcame a mishap with his starting blocks to clinch a spot in the 200-metre semifinals. The 30-year-old from Toronto was second in his heat in 20.60 seconds to automatically advance to the semis.

The start of Brown’s heat was called back after his starting blocks slipped, shooting backwards as he fell forward.

“It felt fine,” said Brown, who finished eighth in the 100 on Saturday. “I ran like maybe 70 per cent (effort), just because after the first time when I slipped out of the blocks, I felt a little bit of a cramp in my quad.

“Didn’t want to risk it. I just wanted to be conservative, and just do what I had to do to get through.”

Jerome Blake of Burnaby, B.C., was third in his heat in 20.30 to advance to Tuesday’s semis.

Lyles wasn’t the only one celebrating a milestone on yet another clear, mild night for racing in Eugene, where the stands were about three-quarters full. 

Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam ran the final event of the heptathlon, the 800 metres, in 2 minutes, 13 seconds to rally past Anouk Vetter of the Netherlands for her second world championship, which goes with two Olympic titles. 

American NCAA champion Anna Hall took bronze.

In triple jump, world record holder Yulimar Rojas romped to her third world title with a leap of 15.47 metres (50 feet, 9 inches) for a margin of .58 (1 foot, 10 inches) over Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts. 

In men’s steeplechase, Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali pulled away from the pack to add a world gold to the one he took in Tokyo last year. He now has a complete medal set from worlds after finishing second in 2017 and third in 2019.

Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon won her second title at 1,500 meters in a time of 3 minutes, 52.96 seconds. She also has two Olympic titles. 

In the high jump, a rematch of last year’s Olympic tie between Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy resulted in less drama, but another title for Barshim. 

The “Qatari Falcon,” flapped his arms to celebrate after clearing 2.35 meters (7-8 1/2) on his first attempt, but was more subdued when he cleared a season-high 2.37 (7-9). Tamberi missed all three attempts at the lower distance and ended up fourth. Barshim has three world championships, including the one he won in front of the home crowd in Doha three years ago.

Canada’s Django Lovett tied for sixth in the men’s high jump. The 30-year-old from Surrey, B.C., cleared 2.27 metres to match Luis Enrique Zayas of Cuba.

Earlier in the day, Gotytom Gebreslase made it an Ethiopian sweep in the marathon. After running at the elbow of Judith Jeptum Korir for miles, Gebreslase motored past her late and won by nine seconds in a championship-record time of 2 hours, 18 minutes, 11 seconds.

Lyles was the only man to break 20 on a no-stress night in the 200. 

In addition to Knighton, his main competition could come from top-ranked teammate Kenny Bednarek or from Kerley, who is two nights removed from leading a U.S. sweep in the 100. Kerley won his heat in 20.17.

The women had fewer than 24 hours to recover from their show in the 100, but there were no big surprises. Shericka Jackson, who finished second in the previous evening’s Jamaican sweep, won her heat in 22.33, while Fraser-Pryce and Thompson-Herah each finished second in their races.


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Eddie Pells, The Associated Press

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