This is the third and final piece on London. Stuart Weir lets Zharnel Hughes do the talking. 

Zharnel Hughes London achievement and Budapest hopes.

It has been quite a month for Zharnel Hughes!  On Sunday, July 23, 2023,  at the London Athletics Meet, he ran 19.73 to set a new British record in the 200m, removing from the record book a time set by John Regis 30 years ago.  In late June, he had taken down Linford Christie’s equally ancient British record running 9.83 in New York and, in between, had become British champion at 100 and 200m.

Zharnel Hughes,
USATF New York Grand Prix
Continental Tour Gold
presented by Global Athletics & Marketing Inc., photo by Kevin Morris

On the day of the New York race, he had written down 9.83 as his target time and repeated the exercise for London, commenting after the race: “I did it again – I predicted it. I wrote it down that exact time this morning, at about 9.30am. I wanted to get you the British record here on home soil and I did it. I don’t care about winning as long as I execute the time that my coach wanted and get the British record. We’ve got things I can work on, but I executed my race: get to 60m as fast as possible, then just maintain from there. I think Noah (Lyles) was playing off me slightly; he was ready to chase me down!”   

Noah Lyles, Zharnel Hughes, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

Hughes also commented that he was still learning how to run the 200.  One wonders how fast he will be able to run once he learns! 

Zharnel Hughes has long looked like a really talented athlete who has not quite produced what he can.  He was fifth and sixth in the world championships of 2015 and 2019.  In the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he won his heat and semi, only to be DQed in the final.  He ran 9.98 in the semi-final at the Tokyo Olympics, only to make a false start in the final.  In the 2022 World Championships, he opened with a 9.97 but then ran 10.13 in the semi and did not progress.  Less than four weeks from the World Championship, he looks to be in the form of his life.

This is Zharnel Hughes winning the British 2023 Trials in what BBC described as a “rain of biblical proportions,” photo by Getty Images for British Athletics.

He looks back to Tokyo, not so much with frustration but as a learning experience: “I believe it was all a part of my journey for me. And it made me the person I am today, and I’m just grateful to be showcasing the true potential I knew I had for many years. But it just took some time. I’m happy with my achievements thus far, and it can only improve”.

And he is convinced that the end of the journey is not in sight: “I’m pretty sure I can run faster. [When I ran 9.83 in New York] I mentioned that we hadn’t really started much speed work yet. This is just speed endurance. I’m running off. I’m pretty sure that come around late July, or early August Coach Mills will start to sharpen other bits that need to be sharpened. I know the time I want to run, but I won’t say it. For me, it’s just to be consistent and to do what I need to do and let it show when it needs to when the time really matters”.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 23: Noah Lyles of Team United States (R) and Zharnel Hughes of Team Great Britain compete in the Men’s 200 Metres final during the London Athletics Meet, part of the 2023 Diamond League series at London Stadium on July 23, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by S Bardens – British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)

Speaking before London, he explained the differences he saw between 100 and 200: “I still have a business that I want to handle in the 200 because I’ve taken some time now to really focus on the 100 meters, but I still haven’t given up on the 200 because the 200 to me is still my better event. The 200 has gotten so much faster and so much more technical as well. And I want to better myself, better my performance over that distance. I feel happier when I’m running the 200. I am not saying that I don’t feel like myself in the 100. The 100 is more for coach Mills because he is a very technical coach. For me, it’s very technical. In the 100, there’s no space for errors, whereas in a 200, you might not get the greatest start, but you still have a whole 180 meters to go. You can still make up the ground, and that’s what I like”.

Zharnel Hughes, Noah Lyles, Wanda Diamond League
London Athletics Meet
July 23, 2023, London, England, U.K., photo by Kevin Morris

Approaching Budapest, he is in a good place. “I feel pretty good because I’m now trying to better my potential. You know, understanding what needs to be fixed in my event, and I’m learning even as I go because of yesterday’s training set. Was one of those sessions that had me smiling and clicking my finger like, ‘I got it. I understand it. My coach noticed it as well and said, ” I can see you enjoying yourself. So that’s what’s important for me. I enjoy the moments and understand that, OK, this is something I’m trying to work on – the first split second bit and knowing that you’re mastering each bit of the race correctly. That’s what my focus is on. Obviously, getting to Budapest being a contender would be exciting. No pressure”.

It is an exciting prospect for spectators as well as for Zharnel.