Zharnel Hughes eager to prove he can match world’s best in 100 metres
The last thing Zharnel Hughes will hear before the gun will be the words of his world-famous coach ringing in his ears.
The European champion is ready to prove himself in the 100m with the event looking for Usain Bolt’s heir.
Hughes is coached by Glen Mills, who guided Bolt to his eight Olympic titles and seemingly untouchable 100m and 200m world records.
Along with British team-mates CJ Ujah and Reece Prescod, Hughes will run in the heats at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
They are targeting semi-finals and, ultimately, the Olympic final on Sunday and Hughes insists he is more prepared than ever before.
He said: “I try not to be caught up with who is around me. If you look at my Instagram and YouTube I uploaded a video where Coach Mills was talking just before we went into the blocks.
“‘Come on gentlemen, the first 10 to 20 metres determines the race.’ Every time I step on the starting line, those are the words which play in my head.
“I’m hearing my coach’s voice in my head telling me what I need to do. That way I’m more focused because Coach Mills is always drilling it into you head.
“He’s quite confident with me, he’s happy with how I have been working over the year. He has seen lot of changes in regards to my technical execution, I have gotten a lot stronger and much faster.
“He sees I’m more confident and I believe more in myself. At first I used to think about all the competitors but now, if I see you on the start line, it’s almost like you are not there with me.”
Hughes had to train in a field in Jamaica when his track was closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, running 60m bursts between cones.
He is now is solely focused on the 100m after Mills opted out of entering him in the 200m and wants to prove he can match the world’s best.
“This is what we’ve been dreaming about for a couple of years now – without the pandemic – but hey, we’re here, we’re happy and the Games must go on,” said the 26-year-old, who has run 10.06 seconds this year.
“My coach made the decision to focus on the 100m, he thinks I’ve got a great chance of doing well. He is excited to see how things are happening in training and would like me to put it into a race.
“I’m happy with the decision because I would like to master the 100m. I’m known mostly as a 200m runner and I would like to show the world I am a 100m runner as well.”
It is the first 100m in the Olympics without Bolt since 2000 while the USA’s Christian Coleman, the world champion, is missing as he serves a ban for missing three drugs tests.
The USA’s Trayvon Bromell is favourite having run a world lead of 9.77 seconds this year and Hughes stopped short of declaring it anyone’s race.
“I wouldn’t say it’s open because there are still championship performers, people who cans still pull off great things,” he told the PA news agency.
“I want to be a part of that, I’ll keep positive that I will get to the final, will focus solely on myself and not think about winning.
“The race needs to be executed first. I trust myself, my speed and that I can do great things, just like anyone else.”
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