Meet Rai Benjamin: The hurdler without a country

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(Lead image: @_Kingben_/Twitter)

Rai Benjamin could hardly believe it. The 20-year-old recorded the second-fastest 400m hurdles time ever, clocking 47.02 seconds at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene.

The USC junior improved his personal best of 47.98 seconds by almost a second to tie Olympic legend Edwin Moses for the second-best time in history.

Only 1992 Olympic champion Kevin Young is faster, holding the world record in 46.78 seconds.

Weather-affected

But Benjamin did it all on a rainy day at Hayward Field.

“I saw 47.02 and I was like, okay, that’s cool,” he said. “It didn’t really hit me until the announcer said everything.”

That was not all. Just one hour after his world-class performance in the hurdle, he ran the second leg of USC’s 4Γ—400m relay.

The Trojans won it in a new collegiate record of 2:59.00 to cap off Benjamin’s record-setting day.

A lot of paperwork

It is not the first time Benjamin has wowed the fans.

At the NCAA Indoor Championships earlier this year, USC’s 4Γ—400m team ran even quicker than the world indoor record.

But the mark was not eligible for a record as the team represented different countries. Benjamin represents Antigua and Barbuda, the birthplace of his parents.

Even though he was born in New York state, he started for Antigua and Barbuda at the 2013 World Under-18 Championships.

U.S. and international media refer to him as a ‘runner without a country’.

Benjamin wants to change that, and is trying to switch to the U.S.

Easier said than done. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) currently doesn’t allow nation transfers.

Therefore, Benjamin won’t be able to compete in the USATF Outdoor Championships to be held in Des Moines, Iowa.

Patience is a virtue

His mixture of composure, speed, and stellar technique make him a force to reckon with.

The junior has lately been experimenting with a 12-step pattern between the hurdles, which could turn him into a constant world record threat.

“I was super patient the first 200m with the conditions out here, raining, big lights, big stage,” he said.

“I was kind of cautious, ran patient the first 200m and gave it everything I had coming home.”

Rai Benjamin was ‘kind of cautious’ in the rain. So what time can we expect in perfect conditions?

Storming Norman

His USC teammate Michael Norman provided the second highlight of the day.

The sprinter became the number six performer ever in the 400m by posting a collegiate record in 43.61.

The sky seems to be the limit for both of them.

“I don’t think about the future or the past too much”, Norman explained. “It’s all about the present.”

Rai Benjamin himself could not have said it better.

 

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