By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It was a long road to the Rio Olympics for Oshawa’s Matt Hughes. And despite a top-10 finish, he says if he was grading himself, his performance would be stamped with an F.
“People may look at that and say, ‘hey you were 10th in the world!’ But injury or not, I didn’t perform to the standards I have set for myself and that’s what I’m disappointed about,” Hughes tells The Oshawa Express.
The injury came only a few short days before the Canadian Olympic team trials, when Hughes suffered a minor calf-strain. It kept him from competing for his spot on the team, but his times in the steeplechase over the past season, not to mention a gold medal at the Pan Am games in Toronto, were enough for him to earn his spot.
And while the injury was only a mild one, the impacts were felt all the way through his performance at the Olympic games.
“(It) set me back quite a bit in my training and I was playing catch up from that point on,” he says. “I never felt like I was able to regain my form and that obviously played a big part in my performance, not only physically, but mentally as well.”
In his preliminary race, Hughes finished 11th among a field of 42 runners to advance to the finals. In the final race, Hughes finished 10th with a time of 8:36.83. Hughes’ training partner, Evan Jager of the United States, nabbed a silver medal with a time of 8:04.28 behind Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya. who took home gold with an 8:03.28 time.
While he’s happy for his running partner, Hughes knows Rio was a missed opportunity.
“Before my injury, I was right with him in all our workouts and training,” Hughes says of Jager’s times. “As happy as I am for him, I can’t help but feel I should have done a lot better.
Returning from Rio, Hughes is spending some free time with his family and friends in Oshawa before he plans to return to Portland, where he trains with the Bowerman Track Club.
Over the next three years, Hughes will have a pair of world championships and the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in order to prove himself and prepare for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.