There will be a smell of gunpowder hanging over the start line in the Charléty Stadium on the evening of 9 June. Two of the biggest showmen on the world stage will be coming together for a major face-off in the 100 m. Indeed, a few days on from his clash with Fred Kerley in Florence, Marcell Jacobs will be competing against another American speed machine in the person of Noah Lyles, which might well jeopardise the meeting record held since 2009 by a certain Usain Bolt: 9’’79.

On one side will be the strapping Italian, who is as balanced in his commentary as his body is covered in tattoos. On the other, the tall and slender American who positively fizzes with a communicative and dogged determination to win. The Olympic 100 m champion pitted against the double world 200 m champion. The European record holder down the straight against the American record holder in the half-lap of the track. Amazing as it may seem, the two athletes have never competed against one another on the track.

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman. Credit: Matthew Quine

On paper, Jacobs would appear to be the favourite to win as he’ll be competing in his chosen discipline. That said, Noah Lyles now has what it takes to steal his thunder. Firstly, he’s already familiar with the Charléty Stadium, having won there in 2019 in the 200 m, with an excellent time of 19’’65. On top of that, he’s a Diamond League specialist, since he already boasts 18 victories (yes, eighteen!) on the circuit in his career, whilst Jacobs is still chasing his first success.

In terms of time, Marcell Jacobs has the edge with 9’’80, whilst Noah Lyles has an upper limit of 9’’86. However, following his two victories in the 200 m at the Worlds in 2019 and 2022, Lyles seems bent on exploring just what he’s capable of over the shorter distance, the one that fires the imagination of both sprinters and spectators alike. Furthermore, a man capable of running 200 m in 19’’31 clearly has the ability to run a very quick 100 m.

To crown it all, the 2011 world champion, Yohan Blake, will try to act as referee for the Italo-American duel. The Jamaican, who posted the second-best performance in the world of all time with 9’’69, has got some serious experience and knows what it takes to put on a show. Kenyan, Ferdinand Omanyala, the African record holder with 9’’77, will also make up the field and has every intention of proving that he can also excel outside Nairobi. Finally, the junior world record holder, Letsile Tebogo (9’’91 in 2022), will be keen to show that he’s already capable of posting a stellar performance among the big names.