Until very recently you had to go back to the year of the European single market’s founding and just prior to Kylie Minogue’s fifth studio album to find a British man setting a national track and field record in the 100m.
Now, in the year of Barbie the Movie, an attempted Russian coup and the anticipated release of Minogue’s 16th album, track and field fans have witnessed what almost felt unthinkable.
Because 30 years on from Linford Christie’s British record of 9.87 set in Stuttgart, Zharnel Hughes last month clocked a 100m time of 9.83 in New York City. At last, Britain has a new fastest man.
Track and field stars
His hasn’t been the only eye-catching British sprinter. Eugene Amo-Dadzie, 30, who only took up sprinting four years ago, broke the 10-second barrier for the first time last month in Austria, when he clocked what was then the year’s fastest time.
Whether the 2023 60m indoor national bronze medalist can continue his run of form into next month’s World Athletics Championships in Hungary remains to be seen, but there is more data on Hughes to assess how repeatable his run is.
Typically a sprinter will compete in 10 to 15 races per year at the very highest level, whether that be World Championships, on the Diamond League circuit or at national events.
This year Hughes has run eight, clocking two sub-10 times – 9.83 and 9.99. Last year he recorded four sub-10 times in 13 races, and the year prior it was one in nine.
Hughes missed the 2020 season but in 2019 he clocked four sub-10s in 12 races, while in 2018 he clocked five in 12.
The 27-year-old, then, has been pretty consistent and it was in 2018 where he ran the fastest wind-legal time of his career before 2023 – 9.91.
That form has helped Hughes start in some of the world’s strongest fields, a factor many current and former athletes cite as improving performance.
In the zone
Christie, in his record-setting 1993 year, ran three sub-10 times in nine races. His two fastest of the year – the 9.89 and a 9.97 – were at the same event. He was in the zone.
Previous to Christie it was Jason Livingston with the record, a 10.09 set in 1992. That shows how far sprinting has come in 30 years. But some trends stick. Livingston was a Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers athlete, as is Hughes.
And how does his time compare with performances at track and field’s World Championships?
Hughes has the fastest time of any Brit in the last 10 years – 9.97 in 2022 in Eugene – and the fastest of the three British times set in a final – 10.03 in 2019, but Britain has mostly struggled to produce a consistent championship sprinter.
Dasaolu’s 9.97 from 2013 is the only other sub-10 time clocked by a British man at the World Championships in the last 10 years. Nine have competed across that decade.
So whether Hughes and Amo-Dadzie can change the trend remains unknown, but to have two Brits running sub-10 within a week and be in the top five Brits of all time bodes well.
Let’s hope so, anyway, otherwise it’ll be another 30 years when Hughes’ record is broken, and Kylie will be on album No25 by then.