Sprinter Zharnel Hughes is relishing the prospect of competing in his first ever Commonwealth Games for England as the start of the athletics draws nearer.
Hughes, starts off his Games on Tuesday, 10 April with the 200m heats, followed by the 4x100m relay heats on Friday 13.
He missed out on the chance to compete at Glasgow 2014 but wants to make amends by bringing away a gold medal during his time on the Gold Coast.
“I’m just grateful to be here,” he said. “It’s my first Commonwealth Games so I’m definitely looking forward to competing on the Gold Coast, getting my event started and hopefully coming away with a gold medal.
“Training has been going really well but it’s quite hot out here, much hotter than Jamaica! But other than that, it’s going just the way I wish.
“I’m trying my best to stay healthy and have as much fun as possible in training and stay relaxed so when it all starts I should be raring to go.”
Just two years ago, Hughes was training alongside two of the fastest men in the world in Jamaica’s Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt.
And when he wasn’t flying around the track, he was flying around in the skies as he trained to be a pilot, a dream which he has now accomplished.
In their training sessions, Bolt would often nickname Hughes ‘The captain’ and salute him when he arrived, but it appears Hughes has been channelling that positive energy into his time down under.
At last week’s Queensland Track Classic, he clocked a time of 20.23s (-1.6m/s), the fastest 200m time run on Australian soil since 2001, something that hasn’t yet sunk in.
“I was surprised when I saw the tweet when I was tagged in it because I was in shock, it was like ‘what? Wait, me? I thought Usain came here!’.
“I was really excited when I saw that and to know that I could have done something like that it massively boosts your confidence heading into the games.
“That run was needed, it was just coming off the plane and going straight into a race but I put in some really good work leading into that race and I wanted to know where I was at heading into the games.
“Coming out with 20.23s I can’t complain, especially running into that negative wind. It shows that I’m in great shape and I’m just looking forward to the games starting now.”
For Hughes, the outdoor season has come around in an unusual fashion. He normally kicks off with the 400m but has had to shift his regime and begin with the 200m instead.
His times in training had been “crazy” and he was raring to step onto the track and open with the 400m, only for his coach to realise the speed at which the Commonwealth’s were approaching.
“I remember late in the year (2017) my coach started making little tweaks and I was like ‘wait, we’re doing this already, it’s December.’
“I remember running my first 200m in 20.28s and I was a bit surprised because I wasn’t expecting to be in such great shape already but it shows the hard work I’ve been putting in is really paying off and I’ll continue to keep up that hard work and continue doing what I’m supposed to do.”