Zharnel Hughes, trying to catch his breath, looks for Beijing success, by Alex Mills

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Hughes_Zharnel-LondonDL15.JPg
Zharnel Hughes, by PhotoRun.net

Zharnel Hughes is one of those wonderfully talented young athletes, who graces our sport every few years. His amazingly poised run in London, in very cool conditions was even more impressive when one notes his age and lack.


Zharnel Hughes crouched on his hind legs in the mix zone, trying desperately to regain his composure and breath, whilst also trying to remove the lactic from his brains. Mr. Hughes seemed to be slightly milking his suffrage. Standing straight up and then straight down again, he begged to do no more interviews or at least to have another timeout.


While slightly over dramatic, after another stride forward in the world of sprinting at the London Anniversary Games, the 20 year-old was more than entitled to do so. 


Although an element of Hughes' post-race could be put down to his clearly theatrical nature, what was more obvious was the fact he was suffering from having given everything for his new Great British fan base. 


"I got a PB, I got the win and I got extra points in the Diamond League, what more can I ask for?" he said confidently post race.

 

Hughes is a new character in the world of athletics, but one with a number of traits we been accustomed to in another Caribbean sprinter, Usain Bolt. 


Just like the world record holder he smiles, he laughs, he entertains and he wins.


At barely 20 years of age, he is already showing off his talent and illustrating his potential at an alarming rate, not only by contending in the major races but he is smashing through Diamond League events in style. 


Here in London, the sprinter came round the curb and never looked back, easing to victory in a new lifetime best of 20.05 seconds. Despite being up against some mighty opposition that included world championship medallist Nickel Ashmeade and  sub-20 second man Dedric Dukes. He didn't worry, he didn't shy away, he just went for victory.


With the inspiration of the Jamaican in his mind, he went for the win despite injury troubles: "I didn't expect the PB because last week I had a niggle in my hamstring. I was just thinking relax and get to the line. It's my first time in the stadium so I wanted to perform well. In the Olympics Bolt was also in lane 7, so I thought if he can do it, I can do it. I came out and I delivered so I thank god for that."


The Anguillan born star's rise to the forefront of the British attention has come at a time when the nation badly needed another male hero to get behind and so he should be welcomed with open arms despite the notion that he is a "plastic Brit". Not least because of the likely absence of Adam Gemili in Beijing through injury. They needed an athlete that has a genuine medal chance at the world championships. Running in the 200m he is that man. 


While the 100m is stacked to the brim with experienced athletes, the half-lap-race is wide open. Sure you have Gatlin and Bolt going for gold and silver, but beyond that the bronze medal could be anyones. 


What it's most likely going to come down to, is which up and coming athlete can deal with their nerves in the best way. Luckily Hughes, just like Bolt, is one of the most relaxed characters in the sport. He runs fearlessly and talks easily about his ambitions.


With that in mind it's no surprise that he shares the British media's optimism for Beijing and in turn breaking 20 seconds in the Bird's Nest stadium: "You never know what can happen (in Beijing) but I'm going to try and go sub-20 seconds, I think I could have run it tonight but there was a minus wind. Next time I will get it probably.

 

Beyond China there is of course the Olympic Games in Rio and also the added pressure of pushing for John Regis' British record of 19.87 seconds. Something he's confident he can also achieve "Yeah I think I can do that" he said nonchalantly. 

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