Noah Lyles and Sha’Carri Richardson’s Track World “No Longer a Platform for Great Personalities” Claims US Legend

Published 04/21/2024, 5:05 PM EDT

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A few months ago, Noah Lyles and Sha’Carri Richardson were recognized as the top athletes in the US. Not only, this but Olympic record holder and track and field icon Michael Johnson also praised the duo for their impact. However, in his recent comments, Johnson talked about the sport missing “great personalities.” 

Noah Lyles and Sha’Carri Richardson jointly took their nation to great heights at the 2023 World Athletics Championships. Lyles bagged three golds and SCR secured two. As they prepare for the Paris Olympics, the expectations are once again high. Apart from being successful on the field, they have resonated with fans off the track as well and the global stage of the Olympics could further help build their brand. But ahead of that Johnson’s words can lead to some debate.

Resorting to his X handle, the former speedster wrote, “Reporter just said “track & field lacks personalities like Bolt, Carl, and you.” My personality wasn’t nearly as exciting as Noah, Sha’Carri, Shelley-Ann, Karston, or Jakob. There isn’t a lack of personalities. Problem is the sport is no longer a platform for great personalities”. The names Johnson mentioned have four Olympic gold medals combined. In contrast, the trio of Usain Bolt, Johnson, and Carl Lewis share a whopping 21 gold medals at the Olympics between them. Could Michael Johnson be referring to this fact, when talking about “great personalities?”


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It is also possible he could be talking about the impact of these players around the world. The likes of Bolt and Carl Lewis transcended their sport. Lewis, as a sports icon, brought unprecedented attention to track and field, elevating its global appeal. His rivalry with Ben Johnson, the infamous, “Dirtiest Race in History,” at the 1988 Olympics all added to his appeal, not to mention a small matter of nine Olympic gold medals and eight world championship golds, put him in the debate for the greatest athletes of all time.

Then there is Usain Bolt. The man who gave track and field its first superstar in years if not decades. His on-track antics, smiling at the start line, carefree attitude, and posing with fans for selfies and signing autographs after the race, made him a larger-than-life personality. He was a beast on the track too. At the 2008 Olympic Games, Bolt became the first man since American Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4 × 100-metre relay in a single Olympics. Bolt had eight Olympic gold medals and 11 world championship titles to his name in his career.

Bolt captured the attention of fans worldwide. His ‘To Di World’ pose, which was his signature celebration, was even tried by former President Obama and Britain’s Prince Harry. Perhaps, this is the “greatness” that Johnson, who himself won four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships gold medals, doesn’t see right now. His comments could also be about how the track and field authorities need to do more to grow the popularity of the sport and create stars.

Last year Bolt himself talked about how the sport has been “missing a superstar” since his retirement. He said, “I think the sport now is maybe just missing a superstar. I mean, when I left people were looking for the next person who is going to step up and really shine and stand out. I think that’s what the sport is missing right now.”

Michael Johnson also agreed with Bolt’s comments and said that the sport needed better marketing. He tweeted the number of fans who love athletics is “shrinking” and even suggested changes to the format to make it more appealing. However, his recent comments are somewhat of a departure from what he said a few months ago.


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Michael Johnson hailed Lyles and Richardson for bringing mainstream attention to track and field

Back in November, Lyles won the Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year prize while Richardson grabbed the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award. It was around this time that Johnson praised them and US hurdler Sydney McLaughlin for helping the sport gain mainstream media coverage. He tweeted, I cannot recall a time when more track athletes successfully transcended the sport into US mainstream media coverage. Noah, Sha’Carri, and Sydney have all succeeded in unique and different ways.”

Last year, Lyles won the 100m, and 200m and was also part of Team USA which won the 4x100m Relay gold in Budapest while Richardson won her first gold medal, claiming victory in the 100m before settling for bronze in 200m. Both have also garnered attention beyond their sport for their different personalities.


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Lyles’ dig at the NBA for referring to the champions as ‘world champions’ when they had only competed in the U.S. brought him widespread coverage. Sha’Carri Richardson’s growing popularity is also highlighted by the fact that Dallas, her hometown, declared November 10, 2023, as Sha’Carri Richardson Day. This was only a few weeks after The Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees decided that the track at Jesse Owens Athletic Complex’s John Kincaide Stadium in Dallas would now be named after the two-time world champion.

With the Paris Olympics looming both Lyles and Richardson will have a chance to cement their legacy and maybe sway a new legion of fans to the track and field world.


Written by:

Agnijeeta Majumder


One take at a time

Agnijeeta Majumder is an Olympic Sports writer at EssentiallySports. Being a former sprinter herself, Agnijeeta takes a specific interest in field events. She covers track and field, equestrian sports, alpine skiing, and gymnastics.
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Edited by:

Sampurna Pal