"You're running against grown men, so you've got to do everything you can to beat them," Erriyon Knighton said. He's had a dramatic rise in track, beating a long-standing record set by Usain Bolt. (Image credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Published: 2021-08-04 06:30 am
Meet The High School Track Prodigy Competing In The Olympic 200 Meter
www.npr.org
(image)

U.S. sprinter Erriyon Knighton, shown here competing in a qualifying heat of the men's 200 meter at the Olympics, is racing in the final on Wednesday.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

TOKYO — Erriyon Knighton may be one of the youngest people in decades to represent the U.S. in men's track at the Olympics, but sailed through to the final of the 200 meter to compete with the fastest men in the world.

"I don't really try to put my age in it, I just go out there and run like I'm an adult just like they is," he said earlier this week.

The 17-year-old from Tampa, Fla., has made a dramatic rise in track, including knocking down an under-18 world record set by Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt that stood untouched since 2003.

And he's made a statement at the Tokyo Olympics.

Knighton won his first heat competition in Tokyo, and he said he eased up after the first half of the sprint. "I've got to qualify for the heat so don't exert too much energy, really," he said, appearing relaxed and confident.

Then, he breezed through the semifinal, winning yet again. After that race, he gestured to "Knighton" on his bib, as if to say, "remember this name."

"Last year I was just at Junior Olympics, so yeah, I mean, I'm here now ... it feels really good," he said. It was at the Junior Olympics last August that he first broke a national record, on his way to smashing Bolt's world record for the age group.

Knighton added that compared to the Junior Olympics, he's finally getting some competition: "Well, the huge difference is you've got to run. Like really fast. When I used to run at Juniors, or youth, you don't have to run that fast. You can jog on kids."

"You're running against grown men, so you've got to do everything you can to beat them," he said.

Knighton, who aspires to go to medical school, started running his freshman year when his football coach said it could help make him faster as a wide receiver. He was recruited to multiple colleges for football, but decided to go pro in track before his 17th birthday, with Adidas.

And while that contract has made his life more comfortable, his high school newspaper reported that his life is still pretty normal: "Switching back and forth from his parent's houses, visiting grandparents and cousins on the weekends, going bowling with his mom, and dreaming, not too unrealistically, of buying a Dodge Charger as his first car."

In the 200 meter final on Wednesday, he'll definitely have some competition. U.S. sprinters Noah Lyles and Kenneth Bednarek are racing, along with Canadian star Andre de Grasse.

Read Full Story

Scapegoats And Allies: How Trump Changed His Tune On States' Coronavirus Response

www.npr.org - 1 year ago
The president has touted reopenings by Republican governors and opposed restrictions by Democratic governors. Take an in-depth look at his response to the coronavirus in seven key battleground states.(Image credit: Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR)
Read More

Ovlov, 'Land Of Steve-O'

www.npr.org - 5 days ago
The first single from the group's forthcoming record, Buds, sounds like meeting someone for the first time and feeling like you've known them your whole life. (Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)
Read More

California Gov. Newsom Pledges To Fight Recall Effort By Republicans

www.npr.org - 6 months ago
Whatever the outcome of the recall campaign against Gov. Gavin Newsom in California, Republicans see it as an opportunity to build on some momentum gained in the 2020 election in the state.
Read More

1,000 More Coronavirus Deaths In The Past Day, CDC Says

www.npr.org - 1 year ago
The number of deaths has been slowly ticking down, but remains well above the totals seen in the early months of the pandemic. More than 175,000 in the U.S. have now died, according to the CDC.(Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Read More