If this is your first time learning about Erriyon Knighton, you’re probably not the only one. He is, after all, only 17 years old, and his track career only began a few years ago. But you can count on hearing his name a lot more often from here on out: The Florida sprinter is headed to the Tokyo Olympics, making him America’s youngest male track Olympian since Jim Ryun competed in 1964.
As USA Today reports, Knighton took up running as a freshman at Tampa’s Hillsborough High School after one of his football coaches noticed his speed on the field. Football continued to be a major focus for him throughout high school—and Division 1 colleges even offered him spots on their football teams—but he decided to pivot to professional track and field in January 2021.
“In track, the success of my career is fully in my hands, and I know that I can do it,” Knighton told Track & Field News earlier this year.
Knighton signed with adidas and threw himself into training for the Olympic trials. Before long, it became obvious that leaving football behind was a savvy decision as, in this month alone, the teen has broken two of Usain Bolt’s youth records. The first was at an American Track League meet in Jacksonville, Florida: Knighton ran the 200-meter dash in 20.11 seconds, beating Bolt’s under-18 record from 2003 by 0.02 seconds. At the Olympic trials, Knighton broke Bolt’s under-20 record from 2004; Bolt clocked 19.93 seconds in the 200-meter dash, while Knighton finished in 19.88 seconds.
[h/t USA TODAY]