Tampa native Erriyon Knighton finishes first in heat, advances to 200m final

Tokyo 2020

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough High School’s Erriyon Knighton finished in front of the pack in the second heat of the men’s 200-meter run Tuesday morning.

The 17-year-old Tampa native and youngest Olympic competitor for the United States finished first with a time of 20.02 seconds.

Now Knighton hopes to make history on the track in Tokyo Wednesday and bring home gold.

He will advance to the final Wednesday at 8:55 a.m.

The track star is just 17-years-old and is headed into his senior year at Hillsborough High School.

8 on your side’s Christine McLarty is speaking with the coaches who have helped train him over the years.

Knighton is on the Track and Field team and Football team at Hillsborough High, both his coaches are proud to see him in the spotlight.

“He’s an olympian at 17-year-old, just turned 17, so the sky’s the limit for this guy,” said Football Coach Earl Garcia.

On Monday night, Knighton breezed through the men’s 200-meter qualifier, finishing first in his heat at 20:55 seconds.

Knighton gained fame two months ago when he beat Usain Bolt’s under-18 world record.

Garcia said before even considering track, Knighton came out for the football team, and is a joy to be around on and off the field.

“He’s hilarious,” Garcia said. “As fast as he is on the field he has to have ADHD because during a 2.5-hour practice he would come up to me in the middle of it, put his arm around me, and say ‘Do you like to fish?’ and I said ‘Get away from me, we’re in the middle of football practice!’ haha. He’s a loveable kid,”

It was Knighton’s freshmen year playing football that the track and field coach, Joe Sipp, said he discovered his running talent.

But Sipp said when he asked the teen to join the track team, at first, Knighton was opposed.

“He didn’t want to run. Monday when track practice opened up, he didn’t come out. I went to him and said…’ I’m not asking anymore, I’m telling you. You’re running track. There’s no if, and’s, or but’s about it…you’re running track,’. And he [Knighton] said, ‘Alright coach, I’ll run”.

Now headed into his senior year, Knighton signed to go pro with Adidas.

Coach Sipp said during covid he let the teen live with him and his family for 6 months so he could help the teen focus on training.

“He wanted to continue to train, my son plays football here [at Hillsborough High] too, they’re in the same grade. So Knighton stayed with us, did school work in the morning, and then we would lift and run in the evening,” said Coach Sipp.

Now, watching Knighton at the Olympics is emotional.

“You don’t find too many people in this world that say they coached an Olympic athlete. I’m just thrilled. I’m wishing him the best, I hope he goes out there and makes us proud. I’m already proud of him. I just hope he goes out there and wins a medal at his first Olympics, I’d be ecstatic,” said Coach Sipp.

Knighton runs in the men’s final 200-meter race Wednesday morning at 8:55 a.m.

Picture of Knighton taken by Sarah Ellis.

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