Erriyon Knighton isn’t ready to sit on Usain Bolt’s throne yet.
The 17-year-old sensation has been earmarked as the successor to Bolt’s 200m Olympic crown but he won’t be wearing it in Tokyo.
Knighton pulled out a sensational run in the 200m final but it wasn’t enough to earn him a medal, as he finished fourth in a time of 19.93 seconds.
Canadian veteran Andre De Grasse, who finished second to Bolt in this event in Rio five years ago, claimed gold in a sizzling 19.62s, while Americans Kenneth Bednarek (19.68s) and Noah Lyles (19.74s) were second and third respectively to round out the podium.
There’s still plenty of upside for Knighton though. To make the Olympics in the first place — let alone qualify for a final — at 17 is a remarkable achievement, and the only way is up for the freakishly talented teenager.
He’ll take plenty of heart from his performance not just in the final but across all his performances in Japan. Knighton won his seat and semi-final and will be an even scarier proposition for rival sprinters come the 2024 Games in Paris.
Can Knighton fill Usain Bolt-sized void?
Knighton put himself on the map with a stunning 200m run at an American Track League event in June. All eyes were on Trayvon Bromell in the final but the teenage phenomenon exploded down the home straight to finish in 20.11 seconds.
It saw him topple Bolt’s Under-18 world record of 20.13 for the 200m, set all the way back in 2003. And Knighton wasn’t done there.
He became the youngest runner to qualify for an American track and field team since 1964 at the recent US Olympic trials, surpassing another of Bolt’s world records in the process. The Jamaican held the mark for fastest 200m time by an under-20 competitor until Knighton crossed the line in 19.84 seconds in Oregon, better than the Jamaican’s best of 19.93 seconds before he turned 20.
Remarkably, Knighton has only been running seriously for a couple of years, after making the switch from football.
“When it comes to filling the void of Usain Bolt, I think one of the most attractive opportunities is a kid in the 200m from America called Erriyon Knighton, who was the third fastest qualifier for the US team,” former Aussie sprinter Matt Shirvington told news.com.au before the track action got underway in Japan.
“But he is a teenager, 17, and he’s run faster than Usain Bolt has at the same age. For me, you’re looking at someone who could end up walking away a superstar, who’s on the rise. I think Erriyon Knight’s a really, really great shout.”