Local sprints star Matt Hudson-Smith is ready for his first race of the year at this weekend’s Müller Grand Prix at the Alexander Stadium

Matt Hudson-Smith makes a belated beginning to his 2019 track season on Sunday when he tackles the 400m at the Müller Grand Prix. It is his first race since the IAAF Continental Cup last September after a succession of injuries have so far prevented the Birmingham-born athlete from opening this season’s campaign.

Hudson-Smith was due to race at the IAAF World Relays in May but withdrew due to an injury – just one of several niggles he has struggled with lately. But he believes his late start to the season could prove a blessing in disguise.

“Because I’m starting my season later I might not be as jaded as some athletes who have been racing since January,” he says. “My situation has its benefits and has its weaknesses.”

He adds: “I’ve been in worse situations before with illnesses. Before the English Schools in 2013 I was ill and only prepared for two weeks (Hudson-Smith won 200m gold).

“In 2016 I had a similar kind of preparation as this year but it was less publicised (he ran 44.61 to place eighth in the Olympic 400m final in Rio). So I’m used to this kind of situation where it’s a tight fit and we’ll just go with the flow.”

Hudson-Smith continues: “My coach (Lance Brauman) doesn’t want to rush it because we know it doesn’t take me that long to get fit. Doha is where it matters and the bigger one is the Olympics in Tokyo. If you’re going to do it then it’s best to do it properly.

“It helps that this is a long season. If it was a normal season then I probably wouldn’t have made it. But it’s funny how things work out.”

A rare talent, Hudson-Smith made a name for himself in 2014 when he ran 44.97 at a Diamond League meet in Glasgow before improving to 44.75 in Zurich to place runner-up to Martyn Rooney at the European Championships. At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow he also anchored England to 4x400m victory.

“It seems like a lifetime ago,” says Hudson-Smith, who is still only 24. “But I only moved up to 400m in 2014 so I’m relatively new to the event and only just starting to get to know what works for me and what doesn’t.”

Hudson-Smith has also been settling into life in Florida with a Braumann-coached group that includes fellow Brits Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Jazmin Sawyers and Desiree Henry. He moved there in autumn 2017 and describes it as a “big drastic change” but adds: “I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s a great place to train.”

Certainly it paid off during 2018 when he won the European 400m title in Berlin in emphatic style. Clocking 44.78 he won by more than a quarter of a second (pictured below) and he also won the British title in 44.68.

Problem is, lots of his training this year has involved cross-training and gym work. “I can tell you now,” he laughs, “if my stability hasn’t improved 10-fold this year then I’ll be surprised I’ve been on underwater treadmills, wobbly boards, you name it.

“I’ve been cross training like a nutcase. At the start I found it boring but my coach told me it served a purpose and once I got my head around it I got it done.”

Which parts has he dreaded most? “Probably the assault bike. It literally made me cry. I did intervals – hard on/off – and it was simulating the build-up of lactic. Also, aqua jogging has been hard. A couple of times I nearly drowned. I had a float on but my head was under the water!”

Given this, he is eager to put spikes on to race. “Things have gone well in recently and my coach is happy and he wouldn’t have let me run if he wasn’t happy,” he says.

Aged 24, he still has time on his side when it comes to breaking Iwan Thomas’ long-standing UK 400m record of 44.36 too. “I’ve had my eye on it for so long now!” says Hudson-Smith, whose best of 44.48 was set in the Olympic semi-final in Rio.

“It’s definitely coming. Iwan keeps bantering me and he says he did it when he was aged about 27-28, so I have time to do it yet.”

»Limited tickets for the Müller Grand Prix Birmingham are still available to buy online via theticketfactory.com/british-athletics

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