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By Carlena Knight

Track and field star Rai Benjamin has shared his sentiments on the news of the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The event, which was to be hosted in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9, was forcibly delayed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Benjamin is the son of two Antiguan parents, former West Indies cricketer Winston Benjamin and Jeanette Mason, and represented Antigua and Barbuda in 2013. Sometime after, Benjamin switched allegiance and is now representing the US in the 400m and 400m hurdles. 

The 23-year-old, while speaking on the Good Morning JoJo sports show on Wednesday, revealed it felt surreal when he got the news about the Olympics.

“Initially, when we heard that it wasn’t going to happen, Coach like gave us a week to really process everything. It’s one thing to hear it but just to process the whole thing and what actually took place, you need time to think about that because when you’re in the sport and this is what you have been preparing for, just the highlight of your career and it’s not happening then you know, it does some things to some people but it took me a while to process the whole thing,” Benjamin explained.

“It was just hard because trying to find out why, as to, all right what’s my purpose now, what am I training for, what’s the end goal here, was really hard for me in that time but each day goes by and I definitely have great teammates and a good coaching staff that keeps me motivated so I am grateful for that.”

He went into further detail on the mental impact it had on him.

“It kind of sucks to be honest with you. The last day of practice we kind of reflected on the season and we knew where we were and we knew what we were going to do this season so it was just really hard because you prepared all fall and the beginning of the year and we were in great shape, we were ready to run fast and then just to have the opportunity cut from beneath you was just heartbreaking.

“It was hard but at the same time, part of being an athlete is being able to be resilient and I mean that just goes across the board even in life. It was just a characteristic trait that just clicked, and you just said ‘okay, you can deal with this’ so I think that’s what really helped.”

Benjamin is the joint third fastest man in history in the 400m hurdles with a personal best time of 46.98. He won a silver medal at his first World Championships in 2019 in the men’s 400m hurdles, and a gold medal in the 4 × 400m relay at the same competition.

In college, Benjamin ran for the UCLA Bruins and then the USC Trojans, where in early 2018 he was part of the team that set the world’s best time in the indoor 4 × 400m relay with a time of 3:00.77. At the time, his relay split time of 44.35s was the fastest ever recorded in an indoor race.

In June of the same year, he also helped set the NCAA record in the same event but outdoors, and ran what was at the time the second fastest 400m hurdles race of all-time in 47.02 s.

Despite all those accolades, Benjamin says for him to remain motivated and continue to be successful he needs to look ahead and not dwell on the past.

“I feel like you need to have a short memory and don’t dwell on your achievements thus far. You just kind of put that in the rearview mirror and keep looking ahead. I am grateful to have had this amount of success at such a young age. I mean, I just always say to myself well that was okay, focus on the next thing but it is hard.

“You don’t really look and see the amount of weight you’re carrying until you set it down and you look back. I think being in this position right now where things are closed you kind of reflect on what is happening and what has happened, then, you see the amount of pressure that you have to carry but it’s all a part of the sport and I like that pressure. I think that’s why I have been able to perform so well.”

Benjamin is currently based in Los Angeles.

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