Zharnel Hughes eyeing Rio
British sprinter Zharnel Hughes has come a long way since his first international experience at the 2010 Carifta Games.
Fresh from a 2015 campaign highlighted by a fifth-place finish in the 200 metres at the World Championships, Hughes has his eyes on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He is quietly confident and is expecting his hard work to pay off.
In 2010, at the Carifta Games in Grand Cayman, Hughes was timid.
"I was always thinking I probably won't medal," he recalled.
He placed eighth and last in the Under-17 100-metre final won by Jamaica's Odean Skeen, now at Auburn University in Alabama.
"I just went out there and I didn't know what to do," he reminisced.
The 6'5" native of Anguilla is far more confident these days. World ranked at number five in the 200 metres by respected US publication Track and Field News, he said: "I just go out there with a positive mindset each time instead of having to doubt myself."
He ended his days as a junior athlete with gold medals from Carifta, the CAC Junior and Pan-Am Junior Championships and the ISSA Boys' Championships Class One 100-metre record of 10.12 seconds. He entered 2015 with a 200m personal best of 20.32 seconds - from his 2014 season at Kingston College - and cut and carved it down to 20.02 seconds.
That time and his fifth-place finish in the World final came despite a minor injury that first surfaced in the semi.
"If you look back at the race, I was actually in third position and then my back flared up a bit on me."
With his deep baritone unwavering, he said: "There was nothing I could have done."
Informed of his Track and Field News ranking, he said: "I wasn't expecting it but I put in the work, and it definitely did pay off for me."
Hughes and his Jamaican coach, Patrick Dawson, a highly regarded assistant to sprint guru Glen Mills at Racers Track Club, have reviewed his 2015 efforts and are cautiously looking forward to Rio and a place in the 200m final.
"As to the medal", said Dawson, "I'm not one of those who like to count my eggs before they hatch, but it would be great to see him on the medal rostrum."
Hughes has started his 2016 programme with a 400-metre personal best of 47.12 seconds. That's part of an effort to make the sprinter stronger. The plan also includes 100-metre races. He did only one last season and achieved a clocking of 10.15 seconds.
While he is confident of lowering his 100-metre best, he is sombre about breaking 20 seconds in the 200m.
"Expectations are there," he said diplomatically.
"Work is definitely being put in right now", he revealed, with the advice that he is expecting the work again to pay off.
"It's just for me to continue to work hard, and to trust my coach and to stay injury free and to continue to climb to the top," he said, full of hope and determination.
"So definitely, maybe one day I could be the world record holder. "You never know."