Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – England’s Zharnel Hughes struck a defiant tone on Friday, expressing his “hunger” for Commonwealth Games relay glory the morning after being stripped of gold in the men’s 200 metres.
The 22-year-old edged out Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards in Thursday’s Gold Coast final and completed his lap of honour, only to be disqualified after officials ruled he had impeded his opponent.
Replays showed that Hughes, struggling under pressure over the last 50 metres, caught Richards with his left hand, causing him to stumble as both sprinters crossed the line in a photo finish.
England immediately lodged a protest that was rejected, but Hughes was still insisting he was blame-free after helping the English men’s 4x100m team qualify quickest for this weekend’s final.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” Hughes said. “It was a bit of a nightmare hearing that I had been disqualified for something I didn’t really do.
“I would never try to impede another athlete,” he added, after England clocked 38.15 seconds to beat Jamaica and Nigeria in their semi-final heat.
“I wouldn’t say it was unfair, it’s just the official’s opinion. I have to accept it.
“I found out when I was coming back along the home straight (after his victory lap) -– my team told me. It was a bit heartbreaking to hear.”
Canada’s Aaron Brown was promoted to silver after Hughes’s unlucky break, with Northern Irishman Leon Reid bumped up from fourth to the bronze-medal spot.
However, Hughes promised to come back stronger from his setback as England look to go one better than four years ago in Glasgow, when they took silver behind a Jamaica team led by Usain Bolt.
“I prepared nicely for the the Commonwealth Games and progressed through the rounds well but sometimes technical issues happen,” said the Anguilla-born Hughes.
“It’s just one of those things but it makes me very hungry now. The guys have been very supportive,” he added.
“I’m proud to be part of this team and I’m giving my best going forward for them, to be the best of my ability to help us win a medal.
“It would be very special to win a medal tomorrow but nothing is certain — we have to go out and execute it.”
Richards insisted justice had been done.
“When I started to catch him, I felt his hand come across and hit me,” he said.
“It threw me off my rhythm, I had to slow down. You don’t expect to get hit in a race — it’s never happened to me before.”