A Year Wiser, 18yo Erriyon Knighton Goes After World Gold

* Erriyon Knighton strides into the finish lane after winning his semifinal heat at the World Championships

Photo Credit: Ben Lonergan/USA Today Images

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"I really don't think there's no real pressure."

By Cory Mull - MileSplit

Being 18 on a World stage has its pros and its cons. 

Pros: Sometimes being reminded that, regardless of what you do, you're still only 18. 

Cons: Sometimes being reminded that, regardless of what you do, you don't have a medal yet. 

"I never feel pressure because everybody at the end of the day let me know I'm still 18," Erriyon Knighton told FloTrack on Tuesday after his semifinal heat, which he won in 19.77 seconds. "I mean, I really don't think there's no real pressure."

On Thursday, however, Knighton will get his chance to silence all those thoughts because he'll find himself in a World final for the second time in two years following his fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics. Knighton will be among three Americans in the 200 meter final at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Just a month ago, Knighton went to prom and graduated high school.

But on Thursday, a little over a year since he's turned professional in track and field, he'll be in his second World final in two years, anointed by many as the Next-Best-Thing-In-American-Sprinting.

"Hopefully a sweep," he said of his hopes for the American contingent. "I hope we get it. We had one man go down, Kerley. Blessings to him. But we still got two more, so we ready. I'm real excited."

The teenager from Tampa, Florida, is no fish out of water this time around, though.

Having been on this stage roughly this time a year ago, competing across the rounds and qualifying for an Olympic final? It has its advantages. 

Knighton owns the fastest time in the World for 2022, having run a wind-legal 19.49 (+1.4) in April. NBC Analyst Ato Boldon said after the first round that the teenager is the best curve runner he's ever seen.

He has a skill on the curve, Boldon added, that in some ways cannot be taught. 

After his first heat, Knighton went on to say he ran "the first 60 meters" before shutting it down. 

Things, of course, ramped up in the semifinals.

Noah Lyles, the Olympic bronze medalist who recently turned 25 -- he's also a 2016 graduate of T.C. Williams (VA) High School -- ran the fastest of any athlete on Tuesday, clocking a 19.62.

Knighton was second-fastest in 19.77. American Kenny Bednarek, the silver-medalist a year ago, ran 19.84.

The budding rivalry with Lyles? That's also something to watch out for.

At the U.S. Championships, Lyles nipped Knighton at the line, and in doing so, winked while pointing directly at the teenager. In the first round of action this week, Knighton smiled with 50 meters to go and cruised into the finish. 

With the finals awaiting all three Americans on Thursday, not to mention Liberia's Joseph Fahnbulleh, the reigning NCAA champion in the 200m -- Knighton will have to feature his best work yet. 

At 18, Knighton is well ahead of the curve. Better yet, on Thursday he'll have an opportunity begin a new medal collection, too. 

"I mean, it will be a good race," he said. "I have my teammates to push me. Like I said, I hope we get the sweep."

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