Latching Bolt: Erriyon Knighton, the 18-year old break-out star, ready to be faster than the fastest

The track and field struggle to fill in the big shoes of the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt, should end soon if 18-year-old Erion Knighton of the United States lights up the IAAF World Championships in Oregon in July and August. There is good reason for optimism. Earlier this month, at a group meet, LSU Invitational in Baton Rouge, Knighton ran the fourth fastest 200m ever. With 19.49 seconds, he managed to improve his under-20 world record and comparisons with Bolt did not start for the first time.

What is the speed of a bolt at the same age?

Although he’s left everyone dumbfounded recently, Knighton’s performance didn’t come out of nowhere. Knighton beat Bolt’s under-20 world record of 19.93 seconds at the US Olympic trials last June. Knighton was twice as fast; 19.88 and 19.84 in the playoffs and the final. He was selected for the US team for the Tokyo Games but finished fourth with 20.55.

Splitting the timing of their personal best sprint in the 200 metres, Knighton (9.20 seconds) is faster than Bolt (9.27 seconds) after bending in the final stretch but in the first half, Bolt was 9.92 faster compared to Knighton’s 10.3.

Comparing the two at 100m is also close. Bolt, 20, had a personal best of 10.03 seconds, while 18-year-old Knighton clocked 10.04. Knighton also achieved 9.99secs with wind assist in May of last year. Like young Bolt, Knighton’s favorite event is the 200m but don’t be surprised if he improves on the shorter sprint event just like the Legend.

He’s focused on his start to the season with a goal of running under 10 seconds and there will be a crack at this timing at the Prefontaine Classic meet on May 28. If he was able to run a nine-second timing, that would be even more special because even Bolt, the 100-meter and 200-meter world record holder, didn’t have both under-20s and 10s at the age of 18.

Why is Knighton a special talent?

It was his American football coach who asked him to try sprints. Until the beginning of 2019, Knighton was known as a high school football star. But in less than three years, he became the youngest track and field athlete to feature on the US Olympic team since 1964. From 21.15 seconds in 2019, he improved his best to 19.49 seconds. Only three men have ever walked faster – Bolt (19.19), Johann Blake (19.26) and Michael Johnson (19.32). Knighton also has age on his side. Johnson was 28 when he set the world record at the time, Blake’s personal best performance was at 22, while Bolt was 23 when he made history in Berlin. However, the challenge for Knighton, who is already an Olympian, will be to move from the university level to the world level. Running against the best in the world will be a different experience, compared to running a team competition as Knighton knows after finishing on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics.

Is Bolt’s world record threatened in this year’s world championships?

Knighton is without a doubt ready for great work on the right track. A 0.30-second improvement is possible in as little as three months, but the Knighton 19.49 is still far from Bolt’s world record of 19.19. Two of the most significant gains in timing have been shown in a short period of time.

Bolt improved 0.45 seconds; 19.75 to 19.30, when he was 21, while Johnson was 0.47 seconds; From 19.79 to 19.32 at 28. So we could see something special from Knighton in the World Championships. But his coach, Jonathan Terry, plays down the possibility of a record-breaking season. Terry told YouTube channel MJP TV, “19.19 is 19.19, it’s tough. I think he’ll be able to do it in three years. It won’t be this year. He can break Michael Johnson’s record (this year).”

The coach did not expect Knighton to improve his record early in the season. Terry usually travels to see all of Knighton’s races. But he was at the University of Central Florida when Knighton opened the season in style in Baton Rouge. When he heard the news, the coach said, “I was running up and down the track.”

What are the other similarities between Bolt and Knighton?

Physique and running style have an uncanny similarity. Knighton is about an inch and a half shorter than Bolt, who is about 6 feet 4 inches tall. Like Bolt before him, Knighton debunked the theory that extra height is unfavorable to a runner. Knighton has a floppy style and long stride style that compares well with the Jamaican greats. Both of them didn’t set fire to the track in their first Olympics. Bolt failed to reach the 200m final (he was fifth in the Heat 4) at the Athens Olympics before becoming a sensation in Beijing four years later. Knighton fared better by finishing fourth in the final in Tokyo. The teen from Tampa, Florida, is also a show rider. At the 200 Million American Trial last year, Knighton did Bolt’s performance. He pointed to the clock as he crossed the finish line in qualifying to leave in his wake world champion and fellow American Noah Lyles. It was similar to Bolt’s stage just as he crossed the finish line at the 2009 Berlin World Championships where he set the current record.

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