Olympic Men’s 200 — His Turn Finally Came

Canada’s Andre De Grasse led 3 Americans across the line as he finally reached the top step of the podium. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

“IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT, definitely,” said Andre De Grasse, the Rio 200 silver medalist and 100 bronze man here, after tearing off Canadian Records in both the semi (19.73) and final (19.62) to outsprint a blinding-quick trio of Americans.

Kenny Bednarek — a Wisconsin prep just three seasons ago — chased in behind the Canadian successor to Usain Bolt with a 19.68 PR ahead of world champion Noah Lyles (19.74, the fastest 3rd in event history) and teen sensation Erriyon Knighton (19.93). Joe Fahnbulleh (19.98), Liberia’s NCAA titlist, claimed a sub-20 NR in 5th.

Knighton, the 17-year-old OT 3rd-placer, looked fabulously at ease, measuring his rivals with sideways glances as he took semi I in 20.02.

The second semi featured as close a 3-way finish as you’d ever want to see. OT winner Lyles, as he acknowledged later, measured his tread a touch too conservatively and wound up 3rd with 19.99, the same time as Canada’s Aaron Brown and Fahnbulleh. Times to the 1000th: Brown 19.982, Fahnbulleh 19.982, Lyles 19.983.

Lyles was left looking for advancement on time. He got it but not before De Grasse dropped his world-leading 19.73 ahead of Bednarek (19.83) and the 20.10 of ’17 WC bronze medalist Jereem Richards of Trinidad.

To earn his 100 silver De Grasse had had to finish in a blur after a poor start. Here he got out well with his 0.135 reaction time, the fastest in the field. Around the curve in lane 6, he ate the first 100 in about 10.3 with Bednarek (7) even and just inches ahead of Lyles (3) and Brown (2). Knighton (5) sprinted in the thick of it as well.

Pulling into the straight, though, Lyles lit his burners and burst to almost even with the leaders as the three about-to-be medalists separated from the rest. Bednarek owned the narrowest of leads at 150.

As the trio roared to within 25m of home, De Grasse, in front again, and Bednarek found inches of separation from Lyles and with a lean at the line De Grasse added a gold to his collection of four previous Olympic medals (including a Rio relay bronze).

Lyles barely dipped at the finish stripe, preferring to hold form. Knighton leaned not at all. He had run himself up to roughly even with De Grasse and Bednarek at 130m before succumbing to the grown man strength of the medalists.

Having taken himself to No. 8 on the all-time list with his 19.62, De Grasse eyed the end-of-straight video board through reflective gold sport lenses, double fist-pumped and grabbed his forehead before dropping exuberant to his knees and rolling onto his back. It was Lyles — the clear-cut favorite since he won in Doha — who pulled the Canadian to his feet and into a congratulatory hug.

“These guys motivate me a lot,” said De Grasse of the 3 Americans. “I knew it was going to be a hot and fast race, I raced them before. It’s the third time I’ve raced Kenny this year. My PB was from 5 years ago and these guys were going to push me to break it.”

The winner spent much of the years since Rio in injury purgatory, struggling to get out until he minted 200 silver behind Lyles at the ’19 WC.

“Going through all that adversity I faced, with the injuries after 2016, to not be able to step on the track for the world championship in 2017 and re-injuring my hamstring in 2018 was pretty tough for me,” De Grasse confessed.

“Luckily, I have my support system. My family [his wife is reigning WC 100H gold medalist Nia Ali] and my friends told me to keep pushing, keep going. So when I was able to get back on the podium in 2019 I was very grateful for that, and I just knew that I continued to get better.”

Bednarek, who jumped on to the elite stage with banging times in 2019, “Bunch of emotions coming in, into my body and my mind. All my hard work has paid off. I was leading the race and was hoping to come out with the gold but first time being an Olympian, first time running the 200m, and first time making a silver medal. I’m happy with my performance, and I’m glad that I came out with the silver medal.”

Said Lyles, “Once I came out of the turn, I was just running for my life.”

Mental health has come out of the closet into the light of discussion at these Games riding the saga of gymnastics great Simone Biles. In his comments after the final, 2-time No. 1 World Ranker Lyles was candid about his own struggles, including treatment with an anti-depressant he came off this summer as he sensed it was negatively affecting his sprinting.

“I remember right before I came to Tokyo I broke down crying about a lot of different things,” Lyles said.

“At the same time, it is nice to have the medal. Of course, I wanted gold, but I have no regrets on that. Everybody up here is very fast, and I think the best thing I was telling Kenny when we were going around the track is, ‘This is lonely at the top.’”

Not to make light of that sentiment, but Lyles can expect to again share the company of De Grasse and the men he raced here at next summer’s Worlds in Eugene.


MEN’S 200 RESULTS

(August 04; wind –0.5) (temperature 82F/28C; humidity 72%)

1. Andre De Grasse (Can) 19.62 NR (WL) (8, =18 W);

2. Kenny Bednarek (US) 19.68 PR (AL) (=11, x W; 8, =13 A);

3. Noah Lyles (US) 19.74;

4. Erriyon Knighton (US) 19.93 (x, =3 WJ, AJ, WY, AY);

5. Joe Fahnbulleh (Lbr) 19.98 NR;

6. Aaron Brown (Can) 20.20;

7. Rasheed Dwyer (Jam) 20.21;

8. Jereem Richards (Tri) 20.39.

(best-ever marks-for-place: 3, =5)

(lanes: 2. Richards; 3. Lyles; 4. Brown; 5. Knighton; 6. De Grasse; 7. Bednarek; 8. Fahnbulleh; 9. Dwyer)

(reaction times: De Grasse 0.135, Fahnbulleh 0.141, Dwyer 0.148, Richards 0.149, Lyles 0.151, Brown 0.157, Knighton 0.159, Bednarek 0.165)

HEATS (August 03)

I(-0.3)–1. Dwyer 20.31; 2. Divine Oduduru (Ngr) 20.36; 3. Anaso Jobodwana (SA) 20.78; 4. Jorge Henrique Vides (Bra) 20.94; 5. Fode Sissoko (Mli) 21.00; 6. Shota Iizuka (Jpn) 21.02; 7. Andres Salazar (ElS) 21.66.

II(0.9)–1. Richards 20.52; 2. Shaun Maswanganye (SA) 20.58; 3. Taymir Burnet (Neth) 20.60; 4. Emmanuel Eseme (Cam) 20.65; 5. Ján Volko (Svk) 21.21; 6. Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (Jpn) 21.41;… dq—Jan Jirka (CzR).

III(-0.6)–1. Femi Ogunode (Qat) 20.37; 2. Ramil Guliyev (Tur) 20.54; 3. De Grasse 20.56; 4. Kyle Greaux (Tri) 20.77; 5. Jun Yamashita (Jpn) 20.78; 6. Aldemir Gomes da Silva (Bra) 20.84.

IV(0.6)–1. Knighton 20.55; 2. Alonso Edward (Pan) 20.60; 3. Robin Vanderbemden (Bel) 20.70; 4. Sydney Siame (Zam) 21.01; 5. Gediminas Truskauskas (Lit) 21.02; 6. Steven Müller (Ger) 21.08.

V(-0.7)–1. Brown 20.38; 2. Fahnbulleh 20.46; 3. William Reais (Swi) 20.51; 4. Serhiy Smelyk (Ukr) 20.53; 5. Antonio Infantino (Ita) 20.90; 6. Lucas Conceicao Vilar (Bra) 21.31; 7. Mohd Noor Firdaus Idris (Bru) 21.83.

VI(-0.4)–1. Bednarek 20.01; 2. Yancarlos Martinez (DR) 20.17 NR; 3. Eseosa Desalu (Ita) 20.29; 4. Zhenye Xie (Chn) 20.34; 5. Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (GB) 20.56; 6. Marcus Lawler (Ire) 20.73.

VII(0.4)–1. Lyles 20.18; 2. Sibusiso Matsenjwa (Swa) 20.34 NR; 3. Joseph Amoah (Gha) 20.35; 4. Clarence Munyai (SA) 20.49; 5. Leon Reid (Ire) 20.53; 6. Brendon Rodney (Can) 20.60; 7. Julian Forte (Jam) 20.65; 8. Noureddine Hadid (LBN) 21.12.

SEMIS (August 03)

I(-0.2)–1. Knighton 20.02 (x, 5 WJ, x, 3 AJ; x, 3 WY, AY);

2. Dwyer 20.13; 3. Oduduru 20.16; 4. Amoah 20.27; 5. Ogunode 20.34; 6. Desalu 20.43; 7. Xie 20.45; 8. Jobodwana 20.88.

II(-0.4)–1. Brown 19.99 (19.982); 2. Fahnbulleh 19.99 NR (19.982); 3. Lyles 19.99 (19.983); 4. Martinez 20.24; 5. Reais 20.44; 6. Munyai 20.49; 7. Vanderbemden 21.00;… dnf—Edward.

III(0.2)–1. De Grasse 19.73 NR (WL) (=14, x W) (fastest-ever low-alt prelim);

2. Bednarek 19.83; 3. Richards 20.10; 4. Maswanganye 20.18; 5. Matsenjwa 20.22 NR; 6. Guliyev 20.31; 7. Reid 20.54; 8. Burnet 20.90. ◻︎

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