Before leaving for Tokyo, he broke down crying in front of his girlfriend, he said, “just talking about how hard it was to get through this year.”
Lyles had always told himself that he would leave the sport behind if he ever lost his passion for it, he said. But while he ultimately chose to continue to train and compete, he was determined not to let track control his life. In the process, he said, he sought more balance. He pointed to his interests in music, art and fashion.
“Even if this doesn’t go right in track, I still have a life outside of it,” he said. “I have places that I can go. I am not defined by being an Olympic bronze medalist, or a gold medal world champion, or the high schooler who went pro. That’s not who I am; I’m Noah Lyles.”
He was at his most emotional, though, when he addressed his relationship with his brother, Josephus, a sprinter who fell short of making the U.S. Olympic team this summer. When they were children, Noah Lyles said, it was actually his brother’s dream to compete at the Games.
“This wasn’t even my dream,” Lyles said as he sobbed. “I just wanted to tag along because I loved my brother, and I wanted to do this together. And it’s taken us so far, and I feel like he should be here.”
In the 200-meter final, staged in an empty stadium, Lyles finished behind Andre De Grasse of Canada and Kenny Bednarek, Lyles’s American teammate. Lyles called his bronze medal “boring.”
“I didn’t win,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s a great achievement.”