By Tom Harle

Zharnel Hughes is relishing the prospect of a tussle with Lamont Marcell Jacobs in the Olympic 100m champion's backyard at the European Championships.

The pair are the two fastest European men of all time, with Jacobs taking the Tokyo title in a time of 9.8 seconds and Hughes lowering the long-standing British record last year with 9.83.

With a few weeks to go until the Olympic Games in Paris, the pair are on a collision course at continental level with the Championships taking place in Rome from 7-12 June.

Hughes lost his European title to Jacobs in 2022 and is targeting a reversal of fortunes that would act as a major confidence boost ahead of the Games.

Hillingdon Times:

“My hopes and dream for Rome is going out there and capturing the gold medal in the 100m and also in the 4x100m,” Hughes said, with tickets for the Italian showpiece available here.

“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.”

The world’s best athletes clearly see Rome as a crucial stop on the road to Paris with Hughes joining world record holders Femke Bol, Mondo Duplantis and Jakob Ingebrigtsen in committing to compete at the Stadio Olimpico.

The 28-year-old prefers to fly under the radar but opened his season with a couple of eye-catching scalps. Hughes ran 19.96s for 200m at the Jamaica Athletics Invitational, beating high-profile Americans Fred Kerley and Christian Coleman.

Hughes has had an eventful history with the European 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.

Hughes has finally found consistency in performances after false-starting at the Tokyo Olympics and missing out on the 100m final at the 2022 World Championships.

Lifting the lid on his mindset, Hughes said: “One of the most intensifying feelings you could probably experience is when you enter the stadium and have to set your blocks.

“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, and 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, control the nerves and keep in mind that you belong here, you can achieve this and allow yourself to go ahead and do it.”

Listen to the Zharnel Hughes interview in full in ‘Ignite’, the official European Athletics podcast: 

Buy tickets now for the Rome 2024 European Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium: