Tokyo 2020 - In-form Team GB sprinter Zharnel Hughes yet to decide on distance focus for Olympics
The double European gold medallist looks in great shape three months out from Tokyo, having clocked a wind-assisted 200m time of 19.93 at the weekend in Miami. Hughes has been telling Eurosport that he is not yet certain whether to go for the sprint double at the Olympics, and reveals his future career plans in the sky.
Britain's Zharnel Hughes is yet to decide on which disciplines to focus on at Tokyo 2020
Team GB sprinter Zharnel Hughes says he is yet to decide whether to go for the sprint double at the Olympics this summer.
The 100m European champion looks in great shape with three months to go until Tokyo 2020, having run a wind assisted 19.93 in the 200m at TRUFit Sprint Classic in Miami on Saturday.
The British Athletics Championships, which take place on June 26 and 27 in Manchester, will double up as Olympic trials, which is when Hughes and coach Glen Mills, who guided Usain Bolt to his successes, will make their decision.
“My coach and I spoke about it the other day,” Hughes told Eurosport.
“He’s happy with how I’m running both events right now but he’s still deciding, should I double, whether he’ll pick his favourite one for me.
Either way, I’ll be happy, I’m happy with how my progress is going. It’ll be decided later on, probably around trials. I think if he had to choose, it would be the 200m.
“Training’s going pretty well, no issues with lockdown or being inhibited to train. I’m really happy with where I’m and how things are progressing.
I’m getting stronger, ironing out what needs to be ironed out, I’m running pretty fast right now - I think with three months remaining, it’s going to get much better in terms of technical executions. By Tokyo, I’m going to be in top shape.
As well as the 100m and 200m, Hughes is part of a rapid relay team which claimed silver at the World Championships in 2019. He says the squad is a good place to be, and believes they will be top contenders for the podium in Japan.
The secret is that we get on so well with each other, we’re like brothers now, the chemistry is very exciting. We trust each other, we all have great rolling speed, as long as the baton stays within the striking distance, everything will fall into play.
While recognising how hard the past year has been for many, Hughes says he has used the time well, catching up with family, working on strength and honing his skills - on and off the track. During lockdown, he used a local field to continue his training, limited only to 60m shuttle runs.
It is almost six years since Hughes, who was born in Anguilla but trains in Jamaica, committed to wearing a Great Britain vest. As his country is not recognised by the International Olympic Committee, he switched competitive allegiance to GB as a British Overseas Territory.
But it feels as if British fans do not truly know much about him yet. Hughes admits he was a bit reserved and shy at first, but is keen to build a relationship with athletics supporters in the UK - and to get to know each other better.
“I had a really great childhood,” he said
Anguilla, the Caribbean, it’s really chilled out, beaches every day, playing with my brothers. I started athletics in primary school against boys who were older than me, I beat them and the first time I competed I got seven gold medals and I realised, wait, I’m really fast. I was always interested to see how fast I could become.
Hughes says his main hobby outside of the sport is flying. He spends his spare time either piloting or using his simulator to gain more practice. The sprinter is 25 but he is already planning for life after sport - switching the track for the sky.
“Aviation’s a big thing for me - I love planes!” he said.
“When I was in Miami the other day I went outside of the airport just to watch planes fly by.
“It started when I was 14 - I got to fly inside the cockpit with a pilot from Anguilla and I sat there, watching everything I was doing and I asked if I could press some of the buttons and he just snapped back ‘don’t touch anything!’ - when we landed he let me have a go to see what it felt like.
“I started flight school at 21, I wanted to do it earlier but my mum wouldn’t let me because she was afraid. I did loads of simulators and when I started flying the instructor asked if I was a pilot already, because I was flying the aircraft really well.
“In no time, I got my solo license done quickly, I’ve got 40 hours under my belt. I definitely want to do it when I retire, starting off as a commercial pilot and then a private pilot later on.”
Before that, Hughes is fully focused on trying to emulate Mills’ former disciple Bolt - and win Olympic gold.