The men’s 200m at the upcoming World Athletics World Championships in Budapest is shaping up to be an epic showdown between American Noah Lyles and Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo. These two sprint stars are the clear favorites heading into the championships, and many experts believe the 30-year-old 200m world record of 19.19 seconds set by Usain Bolt could be under threat.
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Lyles comes into Budapest as the defending world champion and in red-hot form. The 25-year-old ran a world-leading 19.47 seconds in June, just one week after recovering from COVID-19. This shows Lyles is significantly ahead of where he was at the same point last season when his best was 19.61.
With an opening 100m of around 10.10 possibly in store, Lyles looks capable of dipping under 19.30 in Budapest if he can match the blistering 9.88 second second 100m he produced to win gold in Eugene last year. A potential race plan of 10.10 and 9.20 could see Lyles clock 19.26 and move to #2 on the all-time 200m list behind only Bolt.
However, Lyles will face stiff competition from the prodigious Tebogo, who appears to be coming into his own in 2022 at just 20 years of age. The Botswanan demolished the African 200m record in June, stopping the clock at 19.84 in London. This moved Tebogo to #6 on the all-time list and crucially, he was closing hard on Lyles over the final 50m.
Tebogo possesses frightening top speed, underlined by his world U20 100m best of 9.91. If Tebogo can improve his start and first 100m, an opening split of around 10.10-10.15 could set up a final 100m surge in the 9.15-9.20 region and a time potentially dipping under 19.30.
While Lyles vs Tebogo is shaping up as a classic generational battle, some other contenders could also threaten the mighty 19.19 world record. Fellow American Erriyon Knighton, 17, has already broken 20 seconds this year while countryman Kenny Bednarek has a 19.80 PB. Canada’s Aaron Brown and reigning Olympic champion Andre de Grasse will also be in the mix.
In summary, the depth of quality in the men’s 200m at Budapest 2022 is off the charts. At least half a dozen men are capable of going sub-19.50 under the right conditions. The mouth-watering prospect of Lyles and Tebogo going head-to-head has captured athletics fans’ imaginations.
Most expect these two to separate themselves from the field and stage an epic battle over the final 50m, with Tebogo’s raw speed potentially giving him the edge. But Lyles boasts big championship experience and smoking top speed of his own. It will likely come down to who gets the better start and can take control through the bend.
If conditions are right, we could be set for an all-time great race that pushes the human limits of performance and finally takes down Bolt’s seemingly unbreakable 19.19 mark. Even if the world record remains intact, expect scintillating times in the 19.20s or 19.30s and new national or area records.
A time in the 19.50s is likely to be needed just to medal. The prospect of Lyles and Tebogo both dipping under 19.40 is mouth-watering but not out of the question given their recent form. Their clash will go down as one of the greatest head-to-head duels ever seen in a World Championships 200m final.
When the gun goes off, all eyes will be on lanes 4 and 5 where Lyles and Tebogo are expected to reside. Two supreme talents of sprinting, different generations colliding in their prime. Book the date, clear your schedule, and get your popcorn ready. This race promises to produce fireworks.