Tunnel vision is a common trait within world class sprinters. And as one of the most decorated 100m and 200m runners of recent years, Britain’s Zharnel Hughes is no different.

His eyes are firmly focussed on the most sought after prizes at the Roma 2024 European Athletics Championships, which take place on 7-12 June (tickets on sale here).

“My hopes and dream for Rome is going out there and capturing the gold medal in the 100m and also in the 4x100m,” Hughes told European Athletics new podcast series Ignite.

“For me, I’m going out there to have fun and executing a very good race and forgetting about the likes of ‘who are the favourites?’ Even if that includes myself being a favourite – which I should be. I just want to go there and get this title. 

“We’ve been pretty close to it in 2022 when I got dipped on the line. This time I want it and this time I am going for it.”

Hughes has had an eventful history with the European Athletics Championships.

In his first appearance in Amsterdam 2016, he limped out of the 200m heats with injury. But he returned two years later in Berlin to set a championship record of 9.95 to win 100m gold. He was edged out by Italian Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs in Munich, who equalled Hughes’ championship record as he relegated the British athlete to silver by 0.04. However, Hughes returned to take 200m gold in 20.07 in Munich.

But he will be focussed on the shorter sprint in Roma, where he is racing headlong to a rematch with Jacobs. The Italian is fit again and on home territory, a formidable adversary for Hughes. Now he is 28 and having won 100m bronze at last year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hughes is a seasoned sprinter and a match for anyone.

He is able to produce his best, even in the most high pressure situations. And on the Ignite podcast, he gave a fascinating insight into the intensity of championship level sprinting.

“One of the most intensifying feelings you could probably experience is when you enter the stadium and have to set your blocks,” he says. “That can be very intimidating. Sometimes you go there and the crowd is so loud man. 

“You can feel the different egos from the other athletes as they are on the line with you, hear other athletes as they are setting their blocks. That’s where people can decide to play a little mind games

“You know you have to have that belief in yourself where no matter what’s happening around you, who’s next to you, who’s had the fastest time on paper leading up to this moment, you just have to remember you and no-one else. 

“It’s all about you at this moment. It’s not about the crowd. It’s not about the media. It’s not about your coach. It’s not about the sponsors. It’s all about yourself right now. You just have to dial in those nerves, got to control the nerves and keep in mind that you belong here, you can achieve this and allow yourself to go ahead and do it.”

Hughes, Jacobs, world record breakers Femke Bol (Netherlands), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (Norway) and Mondo Duplantis (Sweden) are among the stars competing at Roma 2024. The men’s 100m final will take place on Saturday 8 June at the Stadio Olimpico.

Credit photo: Getty Images