Elliott Denman has been to all of the World Championships and each Olympics since 1956! Elliott did this column on Zharnel Hughes. You are not imagining the constant use of “Z”s in unusual ways. It is a fun, whimsical column about a Young Briton who is taking the sprint world by storm. 

Zharnel “The Z Man”

— Is He Track and Field’s

Next Superstar Celebrity?


Pardon me, track and field fans of the universe, boyz, and girlz, but was that the
Zhattanooza Zhoo Zhoo, we saw dashing zephyr-like to all-new zeniths at Icahn Ztadium, Randallz Izland, New York City, lazt Zaturday afternoon?

Or waz it juzt another round in the zport’z perennial

– and zeemingly forever chanzhing zenario – produzing

one new eye-opening claim after another every weekend of the

long-long zeason, to the dezignation “World’z Faztest Human” ? ”

Time will only tell, of coursze, of coursze, az it alwayz doez in this

world’z oldezt and mozt univerzal zport, still “The

Flagzhip Zport of the Olympic Gamez” – dezpite the

growing claimz of zwimming, gymnazticz, zoccer,

bazketball, etc. to the honor – but one thing iz for

abzolutely zertain.

And that iz that Zharnel Hughes’ 9.83 rocket run –an all-time Britizh record, besting the 9.87 by Linford Christie back in 1993, and placing him an equal 15th plaze on the all-time chartz, which are ztill led by Usain Bolt’z 9.58 in 2009. and Tyson Gay’z 9.58 (also 2009) and Yohan Blake’z 9.58 (2012) equal zecond zpot – waz a very-very big thng.

Furthermore, this Z-man’s 9.83 – dazhing out of lane zix – no, no, not Track Twenty-Nine – will do wondrouz thingz for the morale of the Z-named athletez of the planet.

The firzt twenty-five letterz of the alphabet – well, mozt of them – are of coursze, of coursze, very well reprezented in the annalz of this zport

But Z-guyz and Z-girlz?

Zharnel Hughes, 2023 NYC Grand Prix, photo by Kevin Morris

They’ve hardly played prominent rolez in track and field for yearz and yearz and yearz. So this ezzay of mine iz one journalizt’z way-out attempt to right (write?) thiz wrong and – on behalf of all alphabet-aholicz – here and now, turn back to front, lazt to firzt, to give the z-lizters of the track world the ztatuz of a-listerz.

No zleeping at the zwitch here. No grabbing z’s when there’z a good tale to zpin.

So let’z hear it for the z-named notablez of the track univerze, sparze in number az they may be.

No Z-people, for zure, will ever top Czech superstars, multiple gold medaliztz Emil Zatopek, and dear wife, Dana Zatopekova.

Then there are Americanz Pete Zaremba, Lou Zamperini, and Zach (Double-Z) Ziemek (alwayz a favorite performer for famed Track and Field Hall of Famer Dr. Frank (Zeke) Zarnowski, the world’s bezt deca-announzer), and a few more.

And Russianz Sergey Zhelanov, Galina Zybanov, Lyudmila Zharkova, and Ukrainians Yelena Zhupiyeva and Nina Zyuskova.

And China’z Jianhu Zhu.

And Jamaica’z Zandrion Barnes.

But, unlezz I’m mizzing any other major z-named zelebritiez of the

track world, and there iz always that pozzibility, not too many more.

Zharnel was zizzling on Randallz Izland, and pleaze remember that it’z that locale where:

(A) California schoolboy Zamperini won his Olympic 5,000-meter berth in 1936 and, four yearz later, took the IC4A mile title for the Univerzity of Zouthern California, all preludes to his “unbroken” heroism following hiz World War II Pacific plane crazh, and later brutal-condition zurvival in a Japan prizon camp.

(B) Jamaica’z Bolt zet the first of his zeries of 100-meter world markz, with hiz 9.72 in 2008.

Z-Man Hughes, 6-foot-three and 180 poundz, will mark hiz 28th birthday on July 13.

He runz for Great Britain but really iz multi-national – born on the Caribbean izle of Anguilla but trainz in Jamaica under

famed coach Glen Mills, who previouzly guided Bolt to the top of the track heap.

Zharnel Hughes, 100m winner,
USATF New York Grand Prix
Continental Tour Gold
presented by Global Athletics & Marketing Inc., photo by Kevin Morris

Hiz progrezz has been zteady – from medaling at the

Pan-American Juniorz and Commonwealth Gamez to the Worldz to the 2021 Olympicz in Tokyo.

But Japan delivered an unhappy experienze when hiz Britizh

4×100 relay team was – monthz later – DQ’d from itz zecond-plaze finizh by a teammate’z drug violation.

Juzt under two yearz later, in New York, the track world (via TV) and good Icahn crowd (up cloze and perzonal)
zaw the “new” Hughes in full flight.
He got off to a zlowizh ztart but by mid-race waz absolutely flying, and won dezizively over an all-ztar field of global pursuerz.

Jamaica’z Ackeem Blake (9.93) ran zecond, USA’z Christian Coleman (10.02) third, and zix more were further back.

Dezpite Mills’ admonitionz, the Z-Man knowz he may never be a great ztarter.

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

Inztead he knowz he can ztill be a big winner becauze “I’m the type of person who builds up as I go.”

Now, the Worldz will be waiting for hiz reprize in Budapest.

Can he repeat hiz Icahn feat? Can he ztill ztart zlowly, come on like gangbusters, and beat them all?

Can he? Will he?

Don’t loze any Z’s over it. Track’z Z-man tellz you the anzwer can be zurely be yez and yez again.

To paraphraze the Andrews Sisters, who famouzly zang “when you hear the whistle blowing eight to the bar, then you know that

Tennessee….er, Budapest…is not very far.”