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Lyles still dreaming of four Paris golds despite relay criticism

US sprinter Noah Lyles (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT)
US sprinter Noah Lyles (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT)

Noah Lyles will "unfortunately" not be racing the 4x400m event at the World Athletics Relays in Nassau this weekend, but the US sprint star insists he still has a four-medal target in mind for the Paris Olympics.

Lyles won treble gold at last year's world outdoor championships in Budapest in the 100, 200 and 4x100m relay, etching his place as the man to beat in the French capital this summer.

The 26-year-old also competed in the world indoors in Glasgow in March, returning home with two silvers after teammate Christian Coleman edged him in the 60m and Alexander Doom ensured victory for Belgium over the US quartet at the line in the 4x400m relay.

Lyles' inclusion in that relay team came in for criticism, however, with Fred Kerley, 2022 100m champion and Tokyo Olympic silver medallist, accusing the US track federation of favouritism in drafting in Lyles.

"I can't give all the details but there were coaches who coached athletes that were on the 4x400m (relay in Glasgow) that didn't get to run, that did run in the prelims, that were upset about that," Lyles said.

His call-up, Lyles admitted, had caused "a lot of controversy".

"Some people got written up, other people were threatened with fires," he said in Nassau ahead of the weekend's world relays in which he will now compete only in the 4x100m.

"Let's just say a lot of people in the US were very, very, very upset that I ran the 4x400 and to that I would say, 'run faster, push me out!'."

Lyles, whose contract renewal with Adidas this season has been described as the biggest since Usain Bolt's with Puma, added: "At the end of the day, it's the choice of the relay coach to decide who gets on the relay. I told them before we went out to Glasgow that I was going to make myself available for the 4x400 if you wanted to use me.

"Afterwards there were coaches who were upset and they complained to higher-ups about the decision."

- Florida synergy -

Unless there were rule changes, Lyles said he considered himself eligible for selection for the 4x400m relay team in Paris.

"Well, the way that the rules are set up now is anybody who's actually on the team can be in the relay," he said.

"I will be training specifically for the 100 and 200 and be as strong as possible in the 400.

"I am the best in shape I've ever been in my life. And I know I've been saying that for the past two years, but it's very true."

Before the Olympics, however, come the daunting challenge of safely negotiating the US trials in June.

"You can't make a team unless you go through the US championships, and as we know, it's one of the hardest teams to make in the world," he said.

"We have probably five of the top 10 fastest guys in a lot of the sprinting events and new names are coming up every second... you never know who's going to pop up, so being ready for anything and everything is really important."

Turning back to competition in Nassau, Lyles said he had great confidence in the US 4x100m relay team, insisting there was no bad blood from the Glasgow fall-out.

"Almost all of us are from Florida. Five out of six of us are from Claremont, so we were just able to train at our track before coming over here and just doing a few passes, it was super easy because we only live about 15 minutes away from each other.

"It's a different team, for sure. But I know I've been extremely impressed with everybody. Everybody's 100 percent into it... I've seen some of the best passes I've seen from the US in a long time."

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