Owain Lloyd-Hughes is determined not to let injury stand in his way of building on a superb 2020 as he looks to play a central role in a golden generation of Welsh sprinters.
The 100m prospect from Ystradgynlais recorded the joint-fastest time of anyone in Europe in his age group last year when he blitzed to a 10.38s personal best in Nuneaton nine months ago.
But a return to the same track had a sting in the tail earlier in May when Lloyd-Hughes’ first competitive run of the calendar year ended in an adductor strain that is set to rule him out for around a month.
The Powys sprinter is hoping to recover in time to feature at the British Athletics Championships at the end of June and enhance a reputation which took off last year.
Lloyd-Hughes, 19, said: “The 10.38 was a massive confidence boost.
“I have always been below the radar in Welsh athletics – I was playing rugby as well so I was never at the top coming through the ranks.
“But I’ve peaked over the past two years and last year, everyone suddenly knew my name and was coming up to me to say well done. It was amazing.”
A talented winger on the rugby field, Lloyd-Hughes represented the Ospreys academy and started his athletics adventure with the aim of enhancing his skills in the oval-ball game.
Frustrated with the impact of injuries, however, he made the switch to the track after his GCSEs and has not looked back.
He now finds himself competing with the likes of fellow young Welsh speedsters Jeremiah Azu and Sam Gordon and believes the healthy competition will benefit the national squad ahead of next summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“I was aiming for the British Under-20 team and the British Championships this summer but that will depend on how I recover from this injury,” he said.
“Next year is the big one – I’d love to be part of the relay team for the Commonwealths.
“Representing Wales on that stage would be massive. It’s on TV, so it would be a great opportunity, and to represent my country would mean everything.
“Jeremiah and Sam are doing very well at the minute and it’s a competitive friendship. We are nice to each other but always want to beat each other!
“There are seven or eight of us who are in really good shape. We are all hitting low 10s, which is really looking good for the Commonwealths.”
The former Ystalyfera pupil’s athletics ambitions are being powered by a partnership between Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and SportsAid which provides vital funding for training, travel, equipment and access to mentoring.
Sprint sensations Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Dina Asher-Smith are among those who have benefited from SportsAid programmes in the past and Lloyd-Hughes is excited to be a part of the current crop.
“I’ve had some contact with SportsAid in the past but this is my first year with funding,” he said.
“It will be a massive help and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Fay Jones MP, Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire – Lloyd-Hughes’ constituency – said: “It’s fantastic to see that Owain is getting support from Pitching In with Entain and SportsAid, in recognition for their achievements in athletics.
“We need to keep on supporting our young athletes, especially at this difficult time for everyone.
“British sporting success in the future is something that can bring us all together and I look forward to everyone in Brecon and Radnorshire cheering Owain on in the future.”
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.