Arion Knighton could soon be faster than Usain Bolt.

TAMPA, Fla. – When Erwin Knighton became the fourth-fastest 200-meter runner in history on April 30, a few months after his 18th birthday, fellow sprinter Michael Cherry tweeted in surprise, Felt algebra. “

Knighton was just weeks away from high school when he ran half-lap around the track in 19.49 seconds, breaking Usain Bolt’s own world junior record at the LSU Invitational in Baton Rouge, LA.

Knighton turned professional in January 2021, just days before his 17th birthday. Months later, he finished fourth in the 200 at the Tokyo Olympics, so his victory in this less important event was not unexpected. It was shocking how fast Knighton crossed the finish line at such a young age.

He entered the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore this weekend as a favorite, and is expected to qualify for the World Championships there in July, when he Sure he can win.

Unable to immediately see the scoreboard in Louisiana State, Knighton reacted with little emotion to his victory. He knew he was running fast, but he did not know that the result had left only three great sprinters behind – Bolt of Jamaica, a three-time Olympic champion in the 200 meters. Who has a senior world record of 19.19. Seconds Johan Blake of Jamaica, 2012 Olympic silver medalist with a personal best of 19.26; And Michael Johnson of the United States, who won the 1996 Olympics at 19.32.

Improvements in sprinting often occur in just a hundredth of a second, finely chopped like a carpacio. But Knighton lost more than three tenths of a second from his previous best of 19.84. In the world of elite track and field, it could be a minute, especially considering that it was the first 200 meter race of its season. The expectations of the day were as bright as the tail wind.

Knighton said in a statement that he did not expect to have such a time until he was 20 or 21 years old. When his coach Mike Holloway told him he had scored 19.49, he replied, “No, I didn’t.”

Why would he think otherwise? No young man ran so fast. No bolts, no one.

As Knighton opened his 6-foot-3 frame from the initial blocks, he would occasionally drag his left foot, or foot, back onto the track. But he made it clear at the LSU meeting. The race was effectively over before he got out of the curve.

The track seemed to bend, as if on the shore, as Knighton came out of the bend, and he was seen running downwards, as the elite sprinters do behind the balls of their feet, his heels never seeming to land. Small His head was perfectly still, his arms pumping but calm, light air on his back, Knighton stepped off the field with every long step.

The advantage of being taller with longer legs allowed the Knighton to take shorter steps than the younger sprinters, which delayed his running fatigue and allowed him to maintain more speed towards the finish line. His coach was amazed at Knighton’s speed and flexibility. That is, he skillfully absorbed the landing energy with almost five times the force of his body weight and quickly blew his body and feet into the air.

The basic measure of speed is the steroid length bar steroid frequency. Elite sprinters usually attack the track and pick it up again in about a hundredth of a second.

“It’s almost like a pogo stick,” said Holloway, who is the head coach at the University of Florida and also the head coach of the United States track team at the Tokyo Olympics.

At the Tokyo Games, Knighton, at the age of 17, was the youngest American track Olympian since the famous Miller Jim Raven in 1964. According to NBC, he became the youngest male track athlete to reach the final of an individual Olympic race in 125 years. If Knighton stays healthy and qualifies for the World Championships in July, many would expect him to win a medal, and possibly reach the top of the podium. He will be 20 years old when the 2024 Paris Olympics begin.

People often ask if he wants to be the next Usain Bolt. Knighton said the comparison is an honor, but, no, he doesn’t want to be the next bolt. He wants to be the best version of himself.

“I didn’t grow up with his name; I grew up with my name,” Knighton said during a relaxing lunch recently with his other coach, Jonathan Terry, who runs a Tampa track club called My Brothers Keeper. The conversation ranged from track and field to fast cars to catfish challenges.

At the age of 18, Knighton has not yet peeked under his internal engine because he has the $ 80,000 Dodge Hellcat he wants to buy. He leaves biomechanics to his coaches. He has lofty ideas. Sometimes during training, Knighton stares into the distance, dreaming during the day. Terry has to call his name to break the river.

“I’m probably thinking of breaking the world record,” Knighton said.

Knighton is confident, hardworking and fearless, without the need for fame, his coaches said. But the international expectation is a heavy weight to put on the tight shoulders of a teenage sprinter, no matter how long it takes. So Knight’s camp is trying to speed it up, in fact, by slowing it down.

They’ve talked about getting him out of Hellcat, with his huge insurance premiums. His training is limited. It still weighs relatively little to fill its 164-pound frame. He has only made four races this season. As a precaution, he withdrew from a meeting in New York in early June after experiencing a slight concussion in his lower back during training.

Knighton said it was not serious. He didn’t want it to get serious.

“If we want to have a longevity in the game, we can’t beat it,” Holloway said, adding that the Jamaican also carefully crafted the bolt. “People forget that Bolt was really good at 16 and 17 and he was unbeatable when he was 21 or 22.”

Knighton will have to look no further than Olympic teammate Trevon Brommel, another former Florida high school sprinting star, to realize the potential and subtlety of world-class speed.

In 2014, he became the first junior sprinter to run 100 in less than 10 seconds (9.97), winning the NCAA title at Baylor University in nearby Broomel, St. Petersburg. He also won a bronze medal at this distance at the 2015 World Track Championships. But Brommel tore the Achilles tendon at the 2016 Rio Olympics and did not reach the 100-meter final in Tokyo despite being a gold medal favorite.

“It can go wrong in many ways,” said Peter Wend, a biomechanics expert at Southern Methodist University who conducts research on elite sprinters. “Bolt is the classic story of the ingredients you want to get things right – strong family support, friends, really good, stable management and good coaching.”

If Knighton avoids serious injury and maintains a solid support structure while his career continues at a normal pace, Wyand said, it looks like he will break Bolt’s 200-meter record of 19.19. – which was once considered untouchable. “I think the condition is that he can probably do it,” he said. Shoot, he’s about half a second faster than Bolt at that age. This is madness. That’s a phenomenon. “

Knighton’s track career began in 2019 during his new year at Hillsboro High School in Tampa at the suggestion of an assistant football coach. He continued to play football during his junior season as a wide receiver and defender who could lift 500 pounds and 450 deadlifts. The powers of the Southeast Conference, including Georgia and Alabama, expressed interest. The path of his career, however, revolves around the football fields and the tracks built around them.

At the age of 16 at the 2020 Junior Olympics, Knighton scored 100 at 10.29 and 200 at 20.33 – a national age group record. In January 2021, months before the Tokyo Games, he became a professional, signing a contract with Adidas and appointing three-time British Olympian and 200-year-old British record holder John Regis as one of his agents. Kept

“I was running what I was doing,” Knighton said. “I thought I could be one of them if I got a little more training.”

In the Olympic trials last June, he broke Bolt’s world junior record twice in the 200s, posting a career-best 19.84 at the time. An estimated 500 people gathered at a spectacle party in Hillsboro High to watch Knighton’s Olympic 200 final from Tokyo in August, celebrating, waving flags.

“Students, teachers, cafeteria workers, caretakers, the place is on fire,” said Eric Brooks, the school’s athletic director.

Knighton finished fourth at 19.93 – a great performance for a young man. As soon as a television camera reached him, he leaned over the track and smiled, but it was a smile to think about what might happen. He had a poor start and could not match the strength of the medal winners in the home stretch. “I didn’t think I was that strong,” he said.

Holloway, the head Olympic track coach, spoke to Knighton after the race. The young man fainted. He thought he could win. “I don’t want you to ever forget how you’re feeling right now,” Holloway told him. And remember, you never want to feel that way again. “

This spring, Knighton improved his 200 personal best to 19.49 and 100 to 10.04. Terry believes he can reduce his 200 times this summer to 19.39 and, if he runs a better race, he can run 19.18 or faster – a world record in 2024. When he runs, he lengthens, raising his hips to get the full extension of his legs.

“He’s like a baby donkey born and barely able to walk,” Holloway said. “Then they get stronger and become the secretariat.”

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