Olympic sprinter Noah Lyles’ personality is more than a business move

By | March 11, 2024

CLERMONT, Fla. – Completing an Olympic sprint workout under the Florida sun in front of a bunch of cameras would be a creative form of punishment for the average person. It’s an ordinary Wednesday for Noah Lyles.

The 26-year-old is almost always filmed by two separate networks, capturing content for “Untitled,” a docuseries that NBC Sports is currently airing and a Netflix project that has yet to be formally announced. Lyles also has a YouTube channel.

It’s not hard to see why Lyles, the reigning world champion in the 100 and 200 meters, is perfect for TV. Most know him as the man who outraged most of the NBA with his comments about who should call themselves world champions. Meanwhile, those who watch athletics expect the theatrics that come with his lightning-fast performances. From taking off his shirt after running the fastest 200 in American history to gesticulating as he passes 18-year-old opponents, Lyles usually has something planned for when he crosses the finish line.

Much has been said about Lyles’ loud personality. Track fans have accused him of putting it on for attention. Fellow American sprinter Fred Kerley suggested Lyles’ attitude has afforded him opportunities he doesn’t deserve. Lyles considers it part of his mission in the sport.

Retired Olympic legend Usain Bolt reinforced that idea when he approached him at the Racers Grand Prix in Kingston, Jamaica, last summer. Of course, Lyles’ cameras captured the exchange.

“Keep the same attitude, buddy,” Bolt told Lyles. “The sport needs that shit. We need a personality.”

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 03: Noah Lyles of USA during the third day of the World Indoor Athletics Championships at the Emirates Arena, on March 3, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 03: Noah Lyles of USA during the third day of the World Indoor Athletics Championships at the Emirates Arena, on March 3, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Noah Lyles says he is aiming for Usain Bolt’s 200m world record of 19.19 seconds. Lyles’ goal: 19.10. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Lyles hosted a media day to roll out its new partnership with energy drink brand Celsius.

“They felt they needed the fastest man in the world. And that’s my title,” Lyles said with a big smile during an interview with Yahoo Sports. “Who doesn’t want to be the fastest man in the world?”

He had been talking to the camera all day, during short breaks between running and plyometric reps. If you ask Lyles’ agent, Mark Wetmore, it’s just who he is.

“The first time I met him in 2016, his goal was to change the sport and become an icon in the sport,” Wetmore recalls. “He’s the first athlete I’ve ever seen who puts himself out there like that. And I think he gave a voice to other people too.”

While making his media rounds on Wednesday, Lyles was days away from the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. There he won two silver medals in the 60 meter sprint and the 4×400 meter relay.

Lyles had an inkling while running in the relay, having never competed in the event as a professional until that day. Team USA’s second-place finish seemed inevitable, regardless of its 45.68-second time difference. Lyles continued to receive criticism, especially from Kerley, who accused USATF of playing favorites because of Lyles’ “Olympic storyline.”

“It’s still entirely possible that you might do this [what I did]Lyles said in response to Kerley. “Do more interviews, become more marketable.”

Lyles added that he only cares about the opinions of his loved ones, which is why he keeps them close. Among those in attendance at Lyles’ media day were his mother, Keisha Caine Bishop, and his girlfriend, Junelle Bromfield. On Wednesday, they all watched Lyles under the shelter of an Adidas-sponsored shed. Caine Bishop is a track and field talent from Seton Hall, while Bromfield competed in Jamaica’s mixed 4x400m relay at the 2020 Olympics.

Lyles’ younger brother Joesphus wasn’t there, but he remains a big part of the story. The siblings, who attended Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, were the first two American male sprinters to turn pro straight out of high school in 2016.

On February 27, Adidas announced that Noah had been extended until 2028 with “the richest contract in athletics since the retirement of Usain Bolt.” The details of Lyles’ deal were not disclosed, which he said he didn’t like. He argued that disclosing figures could promote the sport’s popularity in vain. For what it’s worth, Bolt’s last contract with Puma from 2014 to 2017 was reportedly valued at around $10 million per year.

It’s safe to say that Lyles’ speed, combined with his personality, is paying off. Years ago, his agent worried that all this would create unnecessary pressure. Lyles has ADD and dyslexia. He has also been open about his struggles with depression at the 2020 Olympics, where he won bronze in the 200 meters in front of a crowd of cardboard cutouts.

But Wetmore has seen Lyles’ unyielding will to keep going. That’s why he supports every form of expression Lyles pursues, including walking the runway at Fashion Weeks in Paris and Milan. When Lyles tried to take photos for athletes to show off their outfits as they arrived for their respective events at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, Wetmore had to allay outside concerns that the idea would be a distraction.

Wetmore trusts Lyles’ therapist, sports performance consultant Diana McNab. Lyles has worked with McNab since high school. They visualize his races every week and meet regularly to discuss his life in general. She calls him a mental ‘savant’.

Thanks to the mental game, Lyles became the U.S. Indoor 60-meter dash champion in February with a time of 6.43 seconds, a big improvement from his previous year’s peak of 6.51. He is now aiming for Bolt’s world record in the 200 meters of 19.19 seconds. After running 7:31 PM, Lyles claims he will run 7:10 PM. He plans to realize that goal sometime during his current quest for Olympic gold in Paris.

“I’ll probably go on social media. I’ll look at the haters, the lovers, the headlines – probably whatever crazy things I said,” Lyles said. “I hope I’m excited and proud of myself no matter how it turns out. Because I know I did my best.”

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