NANJING, China – On the night before the 2014 Youth Olympic 200-meter finals, Brandee Johnson and Noah Lyles were doing what champions do best – dreaming big and envisioning success. Kneeling in the hallway of the Team USA resident building, the two Virginia natives practiced their starts and imagined what it would be like to win a medal on the world stage.
“We were both down on the floor in our starting positions – just the two of us – and we imagined the gun going off,” said Johnson. “We envisioned the whole race. And now that it’s happened, I still can’t believe it. It feels like I’m dreaming.”
Lyles and Johnson will sleep well tonight after racing to the gold and bronze medals in the men’s and women’s 200 at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Stadium.
The day opened with the women’s final, and as Johnson took Old Glory for a celebratory lap around the track, Lyles looked on with anticipation.
“I was so excited for her. Watching Brandee win a medal made me want one that much more,” said Lyles before his race. “I definitely want a medal and I want it to be gold."
He would settle for nothing less. Surging around the curve, the 17-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia, took the lead heading into the final 100 meters and never looked back, clocking in with a winning time of 20.80.
“It feels amazing to know that we can represent our country in the same event and come out with the gold and the bronze,” said Lyles on winning a medal alongside Johnson. “I was so excited to run, but being able to come out here and win gold on this stage is just amazing. There are not enough words to explain the emotions that I’m feeling right now.”
Like Lyles, Johnson, 16, got off to a successful start, leading the pack off the turn. The strong start helped her improve on her qualifying time as she crossed the finish line in 24.28 to claim the final podium spot.
“I know a lot of people don’t get the chance to stand on the podium, so I’m very grateful that I was able to do that,” she added. “Since I got third, I know that I’m capable of getting first, and it’s just going to push me even more.”
Johnson becomes the second American to medal in the women’s 200 at the Youth Olympic Games after Olivia Ekpone earned bronze at the inaugural event in 2010. One day, she also hopes to follow in the footsteps of other American women who have graced the Olympic podium in her signature event – names like Wilma Rudolph, Florence Griffith-Joyner and Allyson Felix.
“Watching Allyson (at the 2012 Games), I thought, ‘That’s going to be me coming around the corner, and that’s going to be me crossing the finish line,’” said Johnson. “I told myself, ‘I’m going to be on the podium one day.’ Being able to win bronze here at the Youth Olympics is the first step toward achieving that.”
In other action, U.S. women’s high jumper Janae Moffitt finished second in the B Final of the women’s high jump with a leap of 1.73 meters to place ninth overall, while men’s hammer thrower Kenneth Brinson Jr. tossed 59.51 meters, placing sixth in the B Final and 14th overall.
Track and field competition continues Monday (Aug. 25) with the men’s 800 final. Representing Team USA in the event is Myles Marshall, who posted the fastest time in the qualification heats.