British sprinter Zharnel Hughes believes he has a shot at being the heir to Usain Bolt and believes the 100m race at the Tokyo Olympics will be “wide open”.
Bolt won a hat-trick of gold medals since taking the event by storm in Beijing in 2008 and while his retirement from the sport in 2017 means there will be a huge void to fill, his absence means the most eagerly anticipated event at the Games will be a real competition for the first time since he burst onto the scene.
World champion Christian Coleman was the favourite to take gold before being hit with a two-year ban last October for missing drug tests, while 2004 champion Justin Gatlin is another notable absence after the 39-year-old failed to make the grade in the Tokyo 2020 trials.
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Trayvon Bromell is Team USA’s top candidate after brushing off two operations on his Achilles since the Rio Games to win the Olympic trials.
Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who won bronze at the 2019 world championships behind Coleman and Gatlin, is another one to watch, as is South Africa’s Akani Simbine.
Hughes, who won the 100m gold medal at the 2018 European Championships, is keen to have a big impact in his first Olympic Games in Tokyo and believes there is no clear favourite.
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“The 100m is quite wide open, a lot of guys are running pretty fast and I definitely think with myself included, I can be amongst the mix," the 26-year-old told Sky Sports News.
“I'm looking forward to going in there and taking it round by round, live in the moment, and trust my training and my ability to run fast. It's just a matter of going to the starting line and focusing on myself and the task ahead.”
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Hughes also won gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2018 European Championships and the 2018 Commonwealth Games while his team collected silver at the 2019 World Championships.
Hughes is one of three British sprinters alongside Chijindu Ujah, his 4x100m team mate from the 2018 European Championships, and Reece Prescod to have qualified for the men’s 100m event and he believes the trio can do their country proud.
"This has been a dream over the years, we all trained for this. I know the guys want to step up their game and show the world that Team GB are guys to be reckoned with.
"I definitely think with us three making it to the finals, that will be very exciting back home."
Hughes was reluctant to predict what time the winning sprinter would need to take gold and is just excited to get on to the track and aim to make it into the final.
"The thing is I don't want to put any times, at the end of the day when you get to the finals there's pressure and some people can't really run under pressure. So I won't say specifically what time will win the championship," he said.
"I've never been at the Olympics before, this is my first year, I'm really looking forward to doing something special for myself especially.”
Hughes is aiming to become the first Briton since Linford Christie in 1992 to win gold in the 100 metres and he said Christie and Bolt were inspirations to him, adding he would like to leave his own legacy.
"You have to mention the great Usain Bolt, to see him do it three times back-to-back in 2008, then London then Rio - that's a spectacular feat, you've never seen it over the years," he added.
Obviously you have to mention the great Linford Christie as well, those guys have set to mark for us to follow along the way.
"I definitely would like to leave my mark within the sport, I think it's within me - I just need to get out there and show the world."
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