Erriyon Knighton | The next Usain Bolt?

Can Usain Bolt’s records be broken? American sprinter Erriyon Knighton scores a goal.

Posted at 8:00am

Simon Drouin

Simon Drouin
The press

At the start of the outdoor season, the young 18-year-old prodigy caused a sensation by achieving a time of 19.49 seconds (+1.4 m / s) over 200 m, becoming the fourth artist in history, in Saturday, in Baton Rouge.

Knighton handily defeated Joseph Fahnbulleh (19.92s) and Dorian Camel (20.00s) in the Louisiana State University LSU Invitational.

With this cannon shot, the Floridian is one of the best in history. Only Jamaicans Bolt (19.19s) and Yohan Blake (19.26s) and his compatriot Michael Johnson are ahead of him. The latter had impressed himself with his half-turn in 19.32s in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics final, a record that stood for 12 years.

“I wasn’t surprised by the performance, I was surprised it happened in his first game of the season,” Bruny Surin said at the start of the week. He puts in such a solid performance, it’s crazy. †

The 1996 Olympic relay champion is all the more impressed that Knighton seems to slow him down a bit in the last 15 or 20 meters.

“I don’t know if it was fatigue or if he slacked off a bit because he was so early. But he still had room for improvement. I’d go so far as to say it was a race in the 19.39, 19.41, in those waters.”

‘He’s going to beat Usain Bolt’

Knighton, who played soccer in high school, is far from out of nowhere. Last year he stood out as a youth (U18) with a time of 20.11s, lowering a world mark for Bolt.

A month later, in the US Olympic selections, he did even better with times of 19.88 s and 19.84 s, breaking another world record of the famed Jamaican, that of the juniors (19.93 sec). On Saturday, therefore, he subtracted almost four tenths from this reference while still having a year and a half to go in the category.

At the Tokyo Olympics, at age 17, Knighton was the youngest member of the U.S. men’s track and field team since 1964. He finished fourth in the 200-meter final, won by Canadian Andre De Grasse.


PHOTO ANDREW BOYERS, REUTERS ARCHIVES

Erriyon Knighton (center) during the 200m final at the Tokyo Olympics

As a commentator for Radio-Canada, Surin sat on the front row to witness the blossoming of young talent.

“I saw his progress that year. I saw what he was doing in Tokyo. In one of my interventions, I even said, “I see this man breaking Usain Bolt’s records.” †

Surin felt the same way shortly after his retirement when he covered the 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, his first term for Radio Canada. Bolt then won the 200m in 20.40s.

“I gave him five years to break the world record and run 9.6… [au 100 m]† The world called me crazy, sick, but I got wet! From Tokyo I say that [Knighton] will break Usain Bolt’s world record. †

100m and 200m

Comparisons to Bolt don’t seem to affect Knighton. “It’s really good [d’être plus rapide que Bolt à cet âge], but I try to be humble and not to be stubborn,” he explained in a profile published on the World Athletics website in late December. “I just have to keep training and hopefully I can keep improving at this pace.”

I would like to break Usain Bolt’s world record. I’m going to do everything I can to get there, but I’m going to take it step by step.

Erriyon Knighton

“Technically and physically I think I can get a lot stronger,” he adds. Get a bigger base and know how to run the 200 meters correctly. Once I learn to really deal with it, I think I’ll be a lot better. †

Knighton’s calm during the Games impressed Surin. His slim appearance is reminiscent of that of the eight-time Olympic gold medalist (1.91 m for the American against 1.94 m for the Jamaican).

“I haven’t talked to him or seen him up close, but from what I’ve seen he has great maturity. The little boy did well in Tokyo. He wasn’t intimidated. Psychologically, in my opinion, he’s strong. That’s why I say to myself that he has all the elements to do it [le record mondial]† †

While similar-age comparisons are ‘not obvious’, Surin is confident Knighton will surpass Bolt’s times sooner rather than later, including in the 100m, where the newcomer is his best time to date of 10.04 sec.

“It can go fast. He may not have focused on the 100m yet, he does little, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke the 100 and 200 record. Not at all.”

From the Eugene World Championships in July? Maybe. At the Paris Games in 2024? “It’s clear to me,” Surin concluded.

Bout v. Knighton (200m time)

Usain Bolt
15 years: 20.58 sec
16 years: 20.13 sec.
17 years: 19.93 sec
18 years: 19.99 sec

Erriyon Knighton
15 years: 21.39 sec
16 years: 20.32s
17 years: 19.84 sec
18 years: 19.49 sec

Source: World Athletics

Another record dropped

Another world junior sprint record fell on Saturday: Letsile Tebogo clocked 9.96 seconds (+1.9 m/s) in the 100 m to win the Garbone International Meet, a bronze-level meeting of the World Athletics continental tour that was held in Botswana. The 18-year-old, the first Batswana under 10 seconds, improves by one hundredth the previous standard set by American Trayvon Bromell in 2014.

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