Teen sprint freak breaks Usain Bolt world record

US sprinter Erriyon Knighton has broken Usain Bolt’s under-18 world record for the 200 metres, running 20.11sec.

The wind-legal time was run in a race victory at the Duval County Challenge, an American Track League meet in Jacksonville. It bettered Bolt’s 2003 mark of 20.13.

Knighton turned 17 in January and is now firmly on the world’s radar as a future track superstar. He ran down Trayvon Bromell, a favourite for the Tokyo Olympics 100m gold medal, in the final straight during his historic performance. The tailwind was +1.6m/s.

Knighton was clearly comfortable in such lofty company.

“I’ve definitely got to respect them, top of the world,” he said, after the race. “But I feel like I brought my A-game today.”

Knighton, who attends Tampa Hillsborough High School, is expected to run at the US Olympic trials this month. However, fellow Americans Noah Lyles, Kenny Bednarek and Terrance Laird have all run 19.81 or faster in the 200m since last year, so he is likely a Paris 2024 prospect. He still only ranks seventh among US 200m runners this year, with Lyles, Bednarek and Laird the world’s fastest over the distance.

If he somehow qualified for Tokyo, Knighton would be the youngest male to make the US track and field team since 1964.

Knighton is also hunting the under-18 100m world record. His personal best is 10.16, only 0.01 behind the mark set by fellow American Anthony Schwartz in 2017.

Knighton was already getting comparisons to Bolt due to his taller build. He is 191cm, to Bolt’s 195cm.

Bolt’s open world records are 9.58 for the 100m and 19.19 for the 200m. The Jamaican icon won the sprint double at three consecutive Olympics, from 2008-16.

Knighton used to be a wide receiver, who reportedly received offers from college football powerhouses Alabama, Florida and Florida State. He went into track at the suggestion of his coach, given his obvious natural speed, and has only been a specialist sprinter for two years.

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