Zharnel Hughes: Anguilla-born Brit looking to silence his critics

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Great Britain's Zharnel Hughes
Zharnel Hughes has a personal best over 200m of 20.13 seconds.
Anniversary Games on the BBC
Venue: Olympic Stadium, London. Dates: 24-25 July
Coverage: Friday 24 July, 19:00-20:00, BBC Three & 20:00-22:00, BBC Two; Saturday, 25 July, 14:20-17:20, BBC Two.

Anguilla-born British 200m champion Zharnel Hughes believes winning World Championship and Olympic medals may be the only way to silence his critics.

The 20-year-old's homeland is a British overseas territory and the sprinter has held a British passport since birth.

However, he was only deemed eligible for Britain in June, a ruling fellow sprinter Richard Kilty disagreed with and saw him called a 'plastic Brit'.

"If I continue to progress I think they will get to like me more," said Hughes.

Athletes can compete for Anguilla at Commonwealth Games and World Championships, but are unable to enter the Olympics as the country is not recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Zharnel Hughes competing at the Birmingham games
Zharnel Hughes' homeland of Anguilla has a population of approximately 13,500.

Hughes should be part of the Great Britain team at next month's World Championships in Beijing after winning the British Championshipsexternal-link earlier this month.

He was at the centre of a row over eligibility when American-born Cindy Ofili (sister of Tiffany Porter), compatriots Shante Little and Montene Speight, plus Swedish-born high jumper Victoria Dronsfield were all also recently granted permission to compete for Great Britain.

Hughes, who was also eligible for Jamaica through his mother, was inspired by the move of fellow Anguillan Shara Proctor - the British long jump record-holder - who started competing for Britain in 2011 and was part of the Team GB Olympic squad for London 2012.

Hughes on his inspirations:
"Tyson Gay, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell - I used to watch them every day on TV or on YouTube. I used to study them and every time I was on the track I tried to mimic them.
"When I got to Jamaica [to train] I said 'one day, I'm going to be up there with them.' I'm just going to continue to focus, train and not get carried away because you can't rely on talent alone - work hard, win easy."

"I knew I'd have to make the switch one day to compete in the Olympics and as Shara Proctor did it, and Anguilla is a British colony, I thought that was the best idea for me," he told BBC Sport.

The sprinter has trained alongside Usain Bolt in Jamaica and is currently based with the multiple Olympic champion at Brunel University in London before next weekend's Anniversary Games.

Bolt only narrowly beat Hughes at June's Diamond League 200m meeting in New York with the British runner going on to win the same event - in the Jamaican's absence - in Lausanne earlier this month.

Zharnel Hughes: The inside track
Born: 13 July, 1995Place of birth: Anguilla
Personal best: 200m - 20.13 - Diamond League Lausanne 2015Broke Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake's junior record in the 100m in March 2014

"I'm still in disbelief that I won the race," Hughes told BBC Sport. "But I want to do something spectacular."

That begins with challenging for a medal at the Anniversary Games in London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park next week before bidding for further honours at the World Championships in Beijing and next year's Rio Olympics.

Zharnel Hughes gave Usain Bolt a scare in the 200m at the Diamond League meeting in New York last month

"I know I'm in great form right now," said the sprinter, who aims to be only the second British man after Adam Gemili to run both the 100m in under 10 seconds and 200m in sub-20.

"As long as I execute my races and the rounds properly I could take away the gold, or snatch a silver or bronze.

"I know I can do great things leading into the World Championships, but Rio is the next big stage for me and it would be a dream to win something for GB."

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