The world has been marveling at the United States’ newest Track & Field sensation, Erriyon Knighton. The 200m world junior record holder sensationally demolished his personal best at a meet in Louisiana where he blistered down the track to a world leading time of 19.49s, the fourth fastest time in history on the event.
At 17-years-old, during last year’s Olympic trials in the United States, Knighton broke Usain Bolt’s 200m junior record of 19.93s, running a stunning time of 19.84s. On Saturday, Knighton clocked 19.49s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is the fastest time in the world since the 2012 London Olympics and just .30s off of equaling the legendary Usain Bolt’s world record time of 19.19s.
It is remarkable really, to imagine that the sports’ newest phenomenon, who only just officially turned professional last year, is already breaking international records. This would be his third year training as a track athlete, having switched from (American) Football to Track & Field following the observation of his former coach.
Since breaking onto the scene in 2021, comparisons to Bolt surfaced and were somewhat inevitable, especially since he first garnered international attention after breaking the Jamaican’s junior record. His 19.49s run in the 200m last week has caused many to believe that Bolt’s record in the event is closer to being overturned quicker than people expected. To put things into perspective, Bolt never went below 19.50s until just before his 22nd birthday. Erriyon Knighton has done that four years in advance.
However, the comparisons are perhaps still immature, particularly due to the fact that Knighton has much more development to do. Also, we have seen this before, young stars who burst onto the scene with blistering performances only to fade away as their careers go on. However, having successfully claimed the U18 and U20 records for himself and competing and beating some of the world’s fastest sprinters today, suggests that the 18-year-old is well on his way to continue writing his name down in history.
Sponsored by Adidas, the prodigy’s potential has no bounds. If he continues to develop as rapidly as he has over the last year, we could see a new name emerge among those of the greatest in Track and Field history.
Knighton joins a distinctive group of young international athletes to have appeared over the last twelve months. Christine Mboma is someone who has signaled her threat to Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s quest to claim top spot at this summer’s World Championships. At 18-years-old, the Namibian athlete became the first from her country to win an Olympic medal as she set a new African record of 21.81s in the 200m final at the Tokyo Olympics behind Elaine Thompson-Herah last year. This year, she has continued her form and ran a world leading 21.87s. She also announced her intent to do the sprint double at the World Championships this summer.
Leslie Tobago of Botswana is another name stated to be on the cusp of greatness. The 18-year-old athlete set a new U20 world record of 9.96s at the U20 World Championships in 2021 (previous record was 9.97s) becoming the first Botswana athlete to win a gold medal in the 100m event at World Championship level.
Knighton’s fast progression, however, has suddenly propelled him to the forefront of the current crop of young stars expected to make an impact in the sport in the coming years. Whether he will fulfill the potential many have assigned him is something that the world will just have to wait and see.