TAMPA, Fla — Time is precious. Every tenth-of-a-second counts.
“You definitely have to focus on you,” Erriyon Knighton told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “It’s me versus the clock.”
The clock has been on his side.
Knighton twice broke eight-time gold medalist Usain Bolt’s under-20 world record in the 200 meters during the U.S. track and field trails last month booking his spot on Team USA.
“It hasn’t hit reality yet,” Knighton said. “I feel like when I get there it will sink in. When I realize when I am there hopefully I will do good. I am going to do good.”
Knighton ran a 19.88 in his semifinal heat at the Olympic trials – which bested the under-20 world record that Bolt recorded in 2004. Then in the final, Knighton posted a time of 19.84 seconds, a new personal best.
Two and a half years ago, he’d never been in a track meet. Now he’s on the world’s brightest stage.
“His straight mentality is medal-or-bust,” Knighton’s coach Jonathan Terry said. “If he doesn’t medal, it's a blank trip to the Olympics (is Erriyon’s thinking). But I love the mentality.”
Knighton runs a sub-10 seconds in the 100 meters. But, it’s his blazing speeds in the 200-meter runs that makes heads turn, and it’s because of the turn.
“When you come off the turn it is basically like a slingshot,” Knighton explained.
“He loves the curve,” Terry added. “He knows he has enough speed to create enough separation that he needs. If he makes a mistake, his strongest suit is the curve. He is an exceptional curve runner.”
Knighton is a rising senior a Hillsborough High School, he turned pro when signing a contract with Adidas, and at 17-years-old, he’s the youngest American man to compete in track and field at the Olympics since 1964.
So much success can be exhausting.
“Right when I get home from Tokyo I am off to school,” Knighton said. “I don’t like that. I feel like I should get a couple of days off.”
His first competition will be in the 200-meter preliminary on August 4.