Noah Lyles: Five things you didn't know
He's one of the fastest men in the world, but Noah Lyles could also be described as one of the most artistic athletes out there.
Search “Noah Lyles” on Spotify to find the American sprinter’s much-talked-about music and you’ll come up empty-handed. He goes by Nojo18 when it comes to his recording artist career (and Instagram handle), just one of the many quirky characteristics of the reigning 200m world champion.
While Lyles was still a teen when he missed out on the U.S. team for Rio 2016, he has since become a mainstay on the global stage in athletics as the world’s top-ranked 200m racer, a consistent threat in the 100m and an integral part of Team USA’s perennial powerhouse in the 4x100m relay.
It’s not just the music that sets Lyles apart… but let’s start there.
1 - Noah Lyles, music man
Self-described as an “artist” and “rapper” in his Instagram bio, Lyles – aka Nojo18 – released his first full-length album in April of 2020, called “A Humans Journey.”
“You have to figure out what the purpose of the journey is by listening to the album,” Lyles told TeamUSA.org. “Because the journey to heaven is not a sprint.”
While he remains prolific on both the race track and a musical one, Lyles combined the two in 2019, when he and Olympic silver medal-winning pole vaulter Sandi Morris performed their song “Souvenir” at the opening ceremony of the Diamond League finals in Zurich.
2 - Artistically speaking
Lyles doesn’t stop at just music. His interest is also piqued by the worlds of fashion, video games, comics, painting and anime. When he showed up at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha with silver hair, he had dyed it in tribute to his favorite anime characters, according to the Washington Post.
Socks with cartoons on them? His drawers are full of them.
He even fashions some of his celebratory dances off of anime characters, too. “I’ve got a lot of Japanese followers because I’m a pretty big anime fan, so I’m always showing that on the track,” he told NBC Sports in 2019.
Fashion, of course, is part of his game, too.
3 - Runs in the family
Like many high-caliber athletes, Lyles is part of an athletic family. His parents, Keisha Caine and Kevin Lyles, competed in track and field at Seton Hall University. Keisha was a nine-time All-American and two-time NCAA champ in the 4x400m relay, while Kevin helped the U.S. to gold in the 4x400m at the 1993 Summer Universiade. (Kevin was also an alternate for the U.S. at the 1995 world championships, where Team USA won gold in the 4x400m.)
It’s not just mom and dad: Noah’s younger brother Josephus is the 2014 junior world champion in the (you guessed it!) 4x400m relay, and is still competing internationally in both the 200 and 400m today.
Noah calls Josephus his best friend, and little brother has also been credited as photographer and videographer in many of Noah’s artistic ventures in music.
4 - A bumpy road
Lyles credits Keisha, his mother, for the fortitude he used to battle severe asthma as a kid as well as bouts of depression through middle school before standing out as a sprinter.
“Being hooked up to a breathing machine (and) my mama staying with me the whole night, it wasn’t the finest of times,” Lyles said in 2019, according to Reuters. “You have to beat it, you have to keep a positive mind and having my mom there helped believe it would get better.”
Lyles also said learning disabilities and dyslexia were frustrations for him as a kid at school, and the track become an outlet, specifically during middle school.
“(It) really gives me the strength to know there is nobody tougher than my mom and I want be like you one day,” Lyles wrote for Spikes, the World Athletics site. “The way that you raised us, it blows my mind how I’m so lucky to have a mom like you.”
5 - Be like Bolt
With the prime athletics sprint events having been dominated by GOAT Usain Bolt in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, the sport suddenly has a gap to fill and the title of “world’s fastest man” is up for grabs.
“The goals are to win gold in both the 100 and 200,” Lyles told NBC Sports in 2019 in reference to Tokyo 2020. He added, with a smile: “And to be honest, if we’re talking about Usain Bolt, I am faster than him when he was my age… so let’s see what happens.”
Ever the character, Lyles was asked after winning the 200m at worlds in 2019 if he’d be happy to become as popular as Bolt.
“I would like that,” he said.
“(I’m) being myself. … I’m not trying to change to become what people expect me to be but more that they are gravitating toward what I am now. I like to see that, I enjoy it, it’s nice and flattering.”