Noah Lyles is a name that has been buzzing in the track and field community since the 2024 Olympic year kicked off. The “3 Peat” star has set his sights on an ambitious goal: achieving a “sprint quadruple” in both individual sprints and in the 4×100 and 4×400 relays at the Paris Olympics.

However, Lyles’ mission has not been without its detractors. His goal has received major backlash and criticism within the track community, stirring up a significant debate. But this isn’t the first time such a storyline has unfolded. Thirty-one years ago, a four-time Olympian and USA track veteran faced a similar criticism in the 400m sprints, ultimately proving the doubters wrong.

USA track and field veteran and Olympian opens up about facing 400m criticism


Article continues below this ad

In a post on X by track and field veteran Michael Johnson, the four-time Olympic gold medalist shared a special memory of the 400-meter race at the US Championships in June 1993. He recounted the story that made this race special. In the race, Michael Johnson was up against top athletes like Quincy Watts, Butch Reynolds, and Antonio Pettigrew.

He highlighted that he had been ranked number one in both the 200m and 400m for two out of the last three years, and he had beaten all of his competitors except Watts. There were doubts about his ability to win a 400-meter championship because some believed he “wasn’t a true 400 sprinter.” This race was important because it was the first time he would run 400-meter rounds before a final, something he hadn’t done before.

However, he was confident about going into the race because his training hadn’t changed much since college. In college, he was accustomed to running the 200m, 4x100m relay, and 4x400m relay all on the same day, so running multiple rounds of the 400m wasn’t a problem for him. In the end, Michael Johnson proved his doubters wrong.

As the race unfolded, Harry Butch Reynolds and Quincy Watts surged ahead in the initial 200 meters. Undeterred, Michael Johnson weathered this fast start and powered through a strong third 100m, establishing a commanding lead. Maintaining this lead throughout the race, Johnson crossed the finish line convincingly with a time of 43.74 seconds, a personal best and world-leading time.

But that’s not all. That year, MJ continued his dominance, securing world titles in both the 400m and 4 × 400m relay. As we reflect on this historic achievement, it’s pertinent to draw parallels with Noah Lyles’ journey in 2024. Like Johnson, Lyles too has faced backlash for his ambition in the 400-meter sprint.

Noah Lyles faces the same doubt 31 years later


Article continues below this ad

Ahead of his gold medal sweep with Team USA at the 2024 World Athletics Relays, Noah Lyles stirred up the track world, declaring, Let’s just say a lot of people in the U.S. were very, very, very upset that I ran the 4×400. And to that, I say: Run faster. Push me out. This came after the major backlash the 2023 World Champion faced for his participation in the 4x400m relay at the 2024 World Indoor Championships.

Lyles’ dream of excelling in the 400m received significant criticism, with many arguing that his involvement cost Team USA the gold in Glasgow. Some contended that another deserving athlete like Trevor Bassitt deserved to run the race and many shared that Lyles received favoritism due to his Olympic aspirations.


Article continues below this ad

Fred Kerley was among those who criticized the USATF for including Lyles in the 4x400m relay team despite his lack of experience in the event. Taking to X, Kerley stated, “@usatf y’all play that favoritism like mf. Yall like puppets. For sure yes man.” In response to the criticism, Lyles retorted, “I mean, he could be here, but he ain’t. So be mad at that. Come on out here.

Lyles shared how he had pursued this opportunity persistently, despite initially being told no. He explained, “Although it might look like it happened by magic, it was hard work, dedication, and informing the right people that I wanted to get it done.” Reflecting on the criticism faced by both Noah Lyles and Michael Johnson, we see a similar storyline emerge—a similar critique and the ability to prove naysayers wrong. Do you think, like the veteran Johnson, Lyles too can go ahead and make history in the 400m? Comment below!