17-year-old Olympic track hopeful Erriyon Knighton broke Usain Bolt’s Under 18 200-meter record on Monday night at an American Track League meet in Jacksonville, Florida. Knighton finished 20.11 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than Bolt’s 2003 record of 20.13.
The Florida native, who turned 17 in January, decided to be a professional athlete when he was a junior at Tampa Hillsborough High School. The other thing he has in common with Bolt is height — the new record holder is quoted to be 6 feet, 3 inches.
The tailwind for the race was +1.6m/s. Knighton defeated this year’s Olympic favorite for 100m, Trayvon Bromell, who finished at 20.20, followed by two Brits Zharnel Hughes and Adam Gemili, who placed third and fourth, respectively.
“I’ve definitely got to respect them, top of the world,” Knighton said after the race. “But I feel like I brought my A-game today,” he said of his win.
In his freshman year of high school, Knighton, who was part of the school’s football team, was advised by his coach to take up sprinting and join the track team. This did not mean he was no good at football. He had offers on the line from Alabama, Florida, and Florida State, according to DyeStat, to play as wide receiver.
“Knowing that I grew up around football my whole life, and receiving a lot of D1 offers, it was a tough decision, but it was also a no-brainer,” to choose a pro track career, Knighton said, according to Track and Field News. “In track, the success of my career is fully in my hands, and I know that I can do it.”
Knighton is qualified to race in the US Olympic trials starting in two weeks. The only other field athlete to make the US Olympic Track team at such a young age was Jim Ryun in 1964, per Olympedia.org.
At the moment, the world’s three fastest men of 2020 have already secured their spots on the Olympic team. Noah Lyles, Kenny Bednarek, and Terrance Laird killed the trials to secure their slots on the team.
Knighton, whose personal best in 100m is 10.16 seconds, is pegged to finish at the top six at the Olympic trials with 10.00 to secure a spot for the 4×100 relay pool. Knighton currently ranks 13th among Americans in the 200m since the start of 2019, and seventh this year, NBC Sports reports.
Watch him break Bolt’s record below: