Hughes is enjoying the battle with home favorite Jacobs in Rome

Zharnel Hughes relishes taking on Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs at June's European Championships

Zharnel Hughes relishes taking on Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs at June’s European Championships (IMAGO/Chai vd Laage via Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)

By Tom Harle

Zharnel Hughes is relishing the prospect of a battle 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 just weeks to go until the Paris Olympics, the pair are on a collision course at continental level as the championships take place in Rome from June 7 to 12.

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

“My hope and dream for Rome is to go there and win the gold medal in the 100 meters and also in the 4×100 meters,” Hughes said.

“For me, I’m going out to have fun and have a really good race, asking the questions ‘who are the favorites?’ forgets. Even if that means I’m a favorite, which I should be. I just want to go there and get this title.

“We were pretty close in 2022 when I got dumped on the line. This time I want it and this time I’m going for it.”

The European Championship medals on offer in Rome - Hughes is keen to add another piece of gold to his collectionThe European Championship medals on offer in Rome - Hughes is keen to add another piece of gold to his collection

The European Championship medals on offer in Rome – Hughes is keen to add another piece of gold to his collection (Beat Media group)

The world’s best athletes clearly see Rome as a crucial stopover on the way 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 pair of eye-catching scalps. Hughes ran 19.96 seconds in the 200 meters at the Jamaica Athletics Invitational, beating high-profile Americans Fred Kerley and Christian Coleman.

Hughes has had a turbulent history with the European Championships.

At his first appearance in Amsterdam 2016, he limped out of the 200-meter heats with an injury. But two years later he returned to Berlin to set a championship record of 9.95 and win gold in the 100 meters.

Hughes has finally found consistency in his performances after a false start at the Tokyo Olympics and missing the 100m final at the 2022 World Championships.

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

“That can be very intimidating. Sometimes you go there and the crowd is so loud man.

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

“You know you have to have that belief in yourself, where it doesn’t matter what’s going on around you, who’s next to you, who’s had the fastest time on paper leading up to this moment, you just have to believe in yourself and no one else to remember.

“It’s all about you right now. 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 now. You just have to turn on those nerves, keep the nerves in check and keep in mind that you belong here, you can achieve this and allow yourself to go ahead and do it doing.”