Rai Benjamin eyes 200m switch
American Olympic Games and World Athletics Championships 400m hurdles silver medallist Rai Benjamin says he has ambitions of running the 200m sprint in the near future.
Benjamin, who won the United States national title in the 400m hurdles last month, is focusing at the moment on not only taking gold in the event at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, later this month, but also on breaking the world record, held by Norwegian rival Karsten Warholm.
Benjamin would have been the world record holder when he took silver at the Tokyo Games in a time of 46.17 seconds but Warholm won the race in a world record 45.94s.
He says not having the world record as yet has thrown off the timeline he set for his plans to move to the 200m sprint.
“This was my initial plan, break the world record, win at the Olympics, then run the 200m, run the following World Championships but unfortunately nothing ever goes to plan,” Benjamin said in a recent interview on Antigua Observer’s Good Morning Jojo Sports Show.
His World Championship effort after Tokyo saw him take silver in 46.89s, behind Brazil’s Alison dos Santos (46.29s, a championship, and South American record) in Eugene, Oregon, last year.
“I’m still trying to break the world record here, and after I get done with that, I’ll run the 200m, and then the 400m and go for that world record. Then, I think I’ll run the 400m hurdles in the last two Olympic cycles, but we’ll see.”
Benjamin is the son of former West Indies pace bowler Winston Benjamin of Antigua and Barbuda. Rai says he inherited his father’s competitive spirit.
“I feel like for my dad, anything he sets his mind to, he follows it through and I feel like I’m the same way,” Rai said.
He says that in spite of being a reputable cricketer, his father never pressured him to play that sport, instead he supported whatever decision he made about being an athlete.
“My dad never ever, not one time, forced me to do anything sports-related â€“ never ever,” he said. “I remember when I was in grade two, he used to coach a cricket group and there used to be a Dominican team that used to play baseball there for a couple weeks. Initially, I was playing cricket with my dad and that group for the first couple of days, and then the baseball team came. I went over to them and started playing with them and he never really said anything. He was just like, ‘Just do what you want to do.’ I remember that moment distinctly. But no, he never really forced me, at all, to do anything.
“One thing he does tell me a lot though is that I’m a 200m runner. He wants me to run the 200 so badly and I’m going to do it.”
Benjamin will be in action when the Men’s 400m hurdles start on Sunday, August 20 at 4:25 am Jamaica time. He will go up against Jamaica’s Roshawn Clarke, Jaheel Hyde, and Assinie Wilson in the event.