Zharnel Hughes on his Olympic dream and staying motivated during coronavirus lockdown
By Jessica Creighton
Last Updated: 07/04/20 10:48am
For a man who has made a name for himself on the ground, Zharnel Hughes cannot wait to get back in the air.
When Team GB's double European champion is not sprinting on tracks around the world, he is thousands of feet in the sky flying his favourite plane.
However, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic that has forced many countries into a house-bound lockdown means private pilot Hughes has to keep his two feet on the ground.
"Trust me, if there was any way possible for me to be flying I would be flying!" he told Sky Sports News.
In the meantime, he has had to make do with his simulator at home. "I fly around Europe and the Caribbean. It's not as realistic but it does what I want it to," he laughs.
Considering Hughes' dream of competing at his first Olympic Games this summer was shattered when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the event would be postponed until next year, he is in good spirits as he talks from his home in Jamaica.
"It was a bittersweet moment. I'm in really good shape this year and was really looking forward to competing," Hughes explained. "But this is the best outcome to protect ourselves and protect many others.
"In 2016 I missed out on the Olympics due to an injury. This year I was doing my best to stay injury free - resting properly, getting proper treatment. I was on everything!
"I was looking forward to going to the Olympics and hopefully going away with a medal. But I'll just have to wait until next year."
Due to the pandemic Hughes has gone from training in the sunshine of Jamaica to strength workouts alone in his home. He admits it has been difficult mentally to adapt, but putting up inspirational quotes on his wall and looking through photographs of his 100m and 4x100m relay triumphs at the 2018 European Championships every day helps to keep him motivated.
And with British Athletics announcing the season may resume with July's Anniversary Games, Hughes is confident he can keep himself in top condition during the lockdown.
"My coach is not the kind of person to praise athletes but he's been so encouraging this year. He's like: 'Zharnel you're in such good shape, to the point where it's scary! I've never seen you like this. You're much stronger, much faster'."
High praise indeed from one of the most respected coaches in the sport: Glen Mills. He is infamous for his relentless, methodical approach and is the man behind legend Usain Bolt.
Working with the same coach and training at the same club as Bolt has led to countless comparisons between the two. And while Hughes views Bolt as his "inspirational" older brother, he is keen to carve his own path.
He said: "The guys I'm training with right now all look up to me, especially being one of the seniors in the club. Coach Mills says to me: 'You're one of the world's fastest men, you've made it to the World Champs final - a lot of these youngsters look up to you'.
"I want to inspire as much as I possibly can because that's something always instilled in me. I remember in primary school our motto was: "Inspire before you expire." I try to live by that code every day."
Hughes is one of Great Britain's top medal prospects for the 2021 Tokyo Games and revealed to Sky Sports News he will be focusing on competing in the 200m.
But that is not the only goal he has in his sights.
"I want to become Olympic champion, I want to break British records, I want to become world champion," he said. "I'm just looking forward to going [to Tokyo], not putting too much expectation on myself, but at the same time delivering."