National 100m record-holder ready to add another long-standing mark to his collection at the London Athletics Meet
Zharnel Hughes believes he can break his second British record of the summer when he races over 200m at the London Diamond League on Sunday (July 23).
The 28-year-old shattered Linford Christie’s 30-year-old 100m mark when clocking 9.83 in New York last month and feels he is capable of adding the half-lap record to his collection in front of what is due to be a sell-out crowd of 50,000 at the London Stadium, with top-level athletics returning to the city for the first time in four years.
John Regis currently sits on top of the all-time British rankings with a time of 19.87 from 1994, but the performance – which was run at altitude in Sestriere – was never ratified. The official record is the 19.94 Regis ran at the same 1993 World Championships where Christie set the previous 100m standard.
Hughes has already run inside both of Regis’ fastest performances in 2023, clocking 19.77 to win the 200m title at the UK Championships in Manchester earlier this month. The illegal wind of 2.3m/sec stopped him from entering the record books, however. Doing so would be the perfect way to sign off in what will be his final race before the World Championships in Budapest.
“Most definitely, it is in my reach,” said Hughes when asked about the 200m record. “The trials [UK Championships] were just a test to see what we can do over the 200m. Once I saw how I executed it so nicely in the heats, I knew I was going to do something special in the final. Sunday is just one round and I am looking forward to laying it down.”
He will do so in a field which features the reigning world champion, Noah Lyles, and World U20 silver medallist Letsile Tebogo. Hughes is likely to be the main focus of the home crowd, yet if he is feeling any pressure then it certainly wasn’t showing at the pre-event press conference at the Olympic Park.
“I am not taking on any pressure that is not necessary,” said the man whose 200m PB is 20.02 from 2015. “My head is in a good place. I am physically in a great place, as well. I am just looking forward to racing each time I go out there. On Sunday, with 50,000 people inside the stadium, it makes me very excited.
“I’m looking forward to it, it is going to be electrifying I know. These people haven’t been here in a long time. To have track and field back in the London Stadium is going to be a dream come true again. To race against Lyles and those guys, I am very excited.”
Lyles, for his part, believes the Briton has put himself in the frame to be a genuine medal contender in Budapest. The European champion is yet to win an individual global honour but the American said: “No [he wasn’t in the chat for medals], but he is now, that is all that matters. He is another person to beat.”
Upon hearing what the British record mark is, Lyles also said to his opponent: “We can get there. Why are you being so modest? You just ran in rain, in a hurricane! We can get that.”
The “hurricane” in question arrived at the start of the men’s 100m final at the UK Championships in Manchester, where Hughes kept his focus in extraordinarily bad conditions to clock 10.03 and finish on top of the podium.
“That was one of my toughest races to date,” he admitted. “I have trained in weather like that before in Jamaica [where Hughes is based and trains under Usain Bolt’s former mentor Glen Mills]. When I started seeing the rain, I thought: ‘I can’t do anything about this, everyone is facing the same situation’.
“I remember hearing guys complain on the start line about the rain coming down, so from there I knew I had the race won because my head was already focused on getting to the finish line first regardless and I remember hearing the starter saying on your marks. We were in the set position, I just stayed there and, when the gun fired, I got the best start I possibly could get.
“My transition was a bit slow because the rain was pouring down. But I got up and closed my eyes and just ran to the finish line. The last 20m was when I opened my eyes.”
The conditions look set to be kinder in London. So, how does an athlete set about putting a fast 200m together?
“Phases,” said Hughes. “That’s the answer. Getting a good start is important, yes, but you have a whole 180m to still go! If you blast the bend too hard then you are definitely not going to break the British record. I have to be patient throughout the phases and relax coming down the home straight, try not to tighten up, and the rest will unfold.”
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