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So much more to come from Wolverhampton's Matt Hudson-Smith

So far, so very straightforward for Matt Hudson-Smith.

England’s Matthew Hudson-Smith (centre right) in action during the Men’s 400m Semi Final 3 at Alexander Stadium on day eight of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Picture date: Friday August 5, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story COMMONWEALTH Athletics. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire...RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder..
England’s Matthew Hudson-Smith (centre right) in action during the Men’s 400m Semi Final 3 at Alexander Stadium on day eight of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Picture date: Friday August 5, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story COMMONWEALTH Athletics. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire...RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder..

Not even a marked drop in temperature at the Alexander Stadium last night could knock the Wolverhampton ace off his stride as he cruised into tomorrow’s 400 metre final.

Winning his semi-final in a time of 45.78 seconds, the quickest of any qualifier, the 27-year-old continued to look an athlete in complete command, even though he later admitted to some dissatisfaction with the performance.

“It was cold, so cold. It was a messy run but the job was to get to the final and I did that,” he said.

“The first 50 wasn’t that good, my legs were all over the place and I was just trying to get them underneath me. I’m maybe a bit tired from the world championships but the crowd lifted me, I can’t complain.”

Hudson-Smith describes himself as an athlete making up for lost time and with the European Championships still to come later this month, this has all the makings of a memorable year.

Even before winning bronze at last month’s world championships, his first solo medal in a global event, he had laid a major marker by breaking Iwan Thomas’ British record, which had stood for the previous quarter of a century.

From somewhere and somehow, an athlete who has struggled to live up to the promise he first showed as a teenager has found a way to unlock his potential. It would be a big surprise if he were not standing on the top step of the podium tomorrow morning.

Expectation, of course, brings its own pressure, not least when you are running in front of a home crowd. Yet Hudson-Smith seems to be revelling in it. He strode on to the track for his semi-final heat, the last of three, broad smile on his face. When Trinidad and Tobago’s Asa Guevara went off like a rocket, he did not flinch, instead using his rival as a target and overtaking him down the home straight.

Hudson-Smith’s race came near the end of a night which, in terms of definitive moments and finals, was a little underwhelming. If that seems a little strange for the second Friday of a major championships, it is because this schedule was originally drawn up to be Thursdays, the Games having been moved back a day in the calendar in 2020 to ease the congestion caused by caused by various pandemic-enforced postponements.

That didn’t make the sold-out crowd any less noisy than it had been on previous occasions, in this or indeed any other venue over the past week.

With still more than two hours to go before the first event the environs of the Alexander Stadium were busy with people soaking up the evening sun. One thing the Games’ organisers had no control over was the weather. It has certainly played ball, albeit as the skies turned a darker shade of blue, this became comfortably the chilliest night of the Games so far.

There wasn’t a seat empty when Zharnel Hughes gave the crowd early reason to cheer by sauntering to victory in the first semi-final of the men’s 200m, the opening track event of the night,

The England sprinter was so far ahead of the rest he even had time to glance over his shoulder in the closing metres, crossing the line wearing a broad grin. Despite having visibly eased off, his time of 20.32 seconds was only three-hundredths off his season’s best. Impressive stuff, from a man in form.

Competition for tonight’s final will come from Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards, the only man to have dipped under 20 seconds this season, who also cruised to victory.

Sadly, Hughes’ team-mate Adam Gemili will not be present.

The 28-year-old, who has struggled this summer, sat in third coming off the bend but faded badly to finish fourth in his heat and miss out on a final place. “That was way off my best,” said Gemili, who pointed to a “lot of issues” for his lack of form.

“I’m just trying to get happy,” he added. “There will be some changes and hopefully, next season, I’ll find happiness again.”

One athlete near the top of her game is Victoria Ohuruogu, who made victory in her semi-final of the women’s 400m look easy.

The 29-year-old, younger sister of Olympic and two-time world champion, finally looks on the verge of fulfilling her potential with her time of 51 seconds dead just one hundredth slower than a personal best set earlier this year.

It was more than half a second quicker than that of Sada Williams, winner of the other semi, though the Barbados ace still cruised home and tomorrow morning’s final is another which promises to be quite the contest. Ohuruogo’s England team-mate’s Ama Pipi and Jodie Williams will also participate, having each finished third in their respective semi-finals.

Further entertainment came in the way of the shut put final, in which England’s Scott Lincoln claimed bronze and New Zealand’s Tom Walsh defended his title with the last attempt of the competition, exceeding the distance achieved by compatriot Jacko Gill just a couple of minutes before.

The most thrilling finish of the night on the track came in the men’s T53/54 1500m, England’s Nathan Maguire blasting around Australia’s Samuel Carter and team-mate Danny Sidbury in the final 150 metres to take gold, to the backdrop of more near-deafening noise.

There was delight for England’s Naomi Metzger, who took bronze in the triple jump thanks to a personal best, Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts’ breaking a 20-year-old Games record to take gold. The final action of the night saw Aimee Pratt take silver in the 3,000m steeplechase.

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