2021's Rough Ride: Noah Lyles Reflects on a Challenging Year

Noah Lyles: Sprint Sensation's Candid Journey Unveiled

by Zain ul Abedin
2021's Rough Ride: Noah Lyles Reflects on a Challenging Year
© Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport

In athletics, Noah Lyles has undoubtedly become a household name in 2023. Known for his exceptional athletic prowess, a lavish lifestyle that comes with a seven-figure income, and a charismatic personality that exudes an aura of effortless coolness, Lyles is, without a doubt, the "cool guy" of track and field.

However, beneath the surface of this seemingly idyllic life lies a more profound and tumultuous reality. Recently, the double sprinting champion peeled back the layers of his public persona, unveiling the raw and emotional challenges that come with the territory of being a professional athlete.

Noah Lyles manages a substantial entourage that includes coaches, technicians, nutritionists, physiotherapists, and personal trainers. Yet, what may come as a surprise to many is the presence of a therapist within his inner circle.

In a remarkable revelation, Lyles candidly exposed the hidden truths behind the glamorous façade, illuminating the mental and emotional toll accompanying his athletic journey.

Lyles' Mental Struggles Laid Bare

In an enlightening podcast conversation with fellow athlete Joseph Fahnbulleh, Lyles delved into the darker chapters of his life, where anxiety loomed like an unshakable shadow.

The podcast, aptly titled "INTERNET COACHES CAN SHUT IT!" later aired on YouTube, providing viewers with an intimate glimpse into Lyles' state of mind. For him, the phrase "being present," uttered by his podcast guest, Fahnbulleh, triggered a flood of memories and emotions.

Lyles admitted, "In 2021, being present was a tough thing for me. It was tough actually to be in the race, the gun goes off, and I would like, I’m getting out." During races, he often found himself grappling with overwhelming moments of self-doubt.

These 'oh gosh' moments hindered his focus on his performance, instilling a fear of being overtaken—a mental challenge akin to gymnastics' notorious 'twisties' that could have jeopardized his illustrious career. Recalling the Tokyo Olympics of 2021, track and field enthusiasts will remember a visibly agitated Noah Lyles, a stark departure from his usually composed demeanour.

This mental turmoil took its toll, and Lyles secured a bronze medal in the 200-meter event, falling short of his gold-medal aspirations. In a poignant post-race interview, he openly wept, emphasizing the therapeutic release that came from confronting his emotions.

Exorcising Demons in the Pandemic Era

The global pandemic tested the resilience of individuals worldwide, but for athletes like Lyles, who thrive on competition, the challenges were uniquely daunting. The lockdown restrictions disrupted his training regimen, preventing a timely return to peak performance.

This, in turn, exacerbated his anxieties. The anguish deepened when his brother, Josephus Lyles, failed to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics. It was at this critical juncture that Lyles sought professional help. His therapist played a pivotal role in fortifying his mental resilience, allowing him to weather the pressures of elite athletics.

Today, Noah Lyles is a vocal advocate for addressing mental health challenges head-on. He encourages others to seek professional help when needed, stating, "I want you to know that it’s OK not to feel good, and you can go out and talk to somebody professionally or even get on medication because this is a serious issue." Drawing from his journey, Lyles underscores the transformative power of therapy, crediting it with his resurgence and newfound confidence as he sets his sights on capturing that elusive Olympic gold medal.