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Here are 4 special moments from the World Athletics Championships in Oregon

Noah Lyles celebrates winning gold in the men's 200m — and checks his record time — at the World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
Steph Chambers
Getty Images
Noah Lyles celebrates winning gold in the men's 200m — and checks his record time — at the World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Records were shattered and new track legacies were forged at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., where elite athletes faced off in front of thousands of fans. The U.S. team finished with 33 medals, including 13 gold, in its best performance ever at the event.

It was the first time the world championships were ever held in the U.S., and the atmosphere made it the most vibrant international track event in years, coming after fans were barred from last summer's Tokyo Olympics. Even before the pandemic struck, the 2019 championships in Doha drew notably small crowds.

Many athletes fed off the fans' excitement, turning in record-breaking performances at Hayward Field, the track mecca in Eugene.

Here's a sampling of moments that stood out across 10 days of championships:

Sydney McLaughlin obliterates (another) world record

McLaughlin, 22, broke her own world record — again — dazzling with her speed and technical perfection in the 400-meter hurdles. She won in 50.68 seconds on Friday, lowering her record by 0.73 seconds.

"The time is absolutely amazing, and the sport is getting faster and faster," McLaughlin said.

"It was absolutely unreal to have my family in the stands," she said. "I have never had them together in one place. So this was for me so big. After Tokyo, not having anybody, this was like a redemption."

McLaughlin crossed the finish line well ahead of the second-place finisher, Femke Bol of the Netherlands. In third was defending world champion Dalilah Muhammad, the U.S. silver medalist at the Tokyo Games and a previous world record holder in this event.

Noah Lyles breaks Michael Johnson's U.S. record

Lyles, 25, won his highly anticipated showdown with 18-year-old phenom Erriyon Knighton in the 200 meters, but his real opponent was in the commentary box: Michael Johnson, who set the U.S. record of 19.32 in 1996.

Lyles finished so far ahead of the pack in the final that after crossing the finish line, he turned to stare at the clock — which initially said he had tied Johnson. When the official time of 19.31 was posted, Lyles, his family and the stadium celebrated deliriously.

A special moment then followed, when Johnson — on hand as part of the BBC's coverage — came down to personally congratulate Lyles. The record was set in the summer before Lyles was born.

Jake Wightman wins world gold, with his father as race announcer

British middle-distance runner Jake Wightman pulled off a huge upset in the men's 1500 meters — a victory that was narrated by Wightman's father, who happened to be the stadium announcer for the event.

Wightman, intent on improving upon his 10th-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, bided his time before moving past the reigning Olympic and world champions on the final lap, driving the crowd into a frenzy as he crossed the line ahead of Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

"That's my son," said Geoff Wightman, who also coaches Jake, "and he's the world champion!"

Allyson Felix ends her worlds career with a record 20 medals

Felix, 36, was already the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete when she announced she would retire after the 2022 season. She's also won more world championships medals, and more gold, than any other athlete.

Her 19th medal, a bronze, came in the mixed 4x400-meter team relay. And that seemed to be all for Felix, who left Eugene. But she later flew back, after her coaches called Felix (who was by then enjoying hot wings and a root beer float) to ask if she could help the women's 4x400 team get to the final.

She turned in a strong run in the preliminary round, putting the team into Sunday's final — which a different lineup then dominated, earning Felix her 14th gold and 20th medal overall.

Felix, who has also won 11 Olympic medals, has made it her mission to support female athletes who need help paying for child care so they can continue their sporting careers.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]