By Neto Baptiste
Cabinet and by extension, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, has commended citizen and US hurdler Rai Benjamin on his silver medal performance at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Rai, son of former West Indies and Antiguan fast bowler Winston Benjamin and US-based Newfield villager Gale Mason, clocked 46.17 seconds to finish second in the record-breaking race which was won by Karsten Warholm of Norway who set a new world record to win in a time of 45.94 seconds.
Cabinet spokesperson Melford Nicholas, during the Cabinet press briefing on Friday, applauded Rai’s accomplishment.
“There has been some discussions as to whether or not Antigua should have benefited from his prowess at the Olympics. Mr Benjamin has dual citizenship and he exercised an option which perhaps gave him better opportunities to reach to that level and there is no animosity from the government. We really applaud him because this is our first citizen that would have achieved that high level of accomplishment at the Olympics. If my memory serves me correctly, he is the only citizen who would have achieved that level. The medal was not won on Antigua’s behalf but he is still a citizen and we applaud and celebrate with each and every one of our citizens who have achieved excellence in their field of endeavor,” he said.
Nicholas is hoping that Rai’s success on the world stage would motivate others to work towards their dreams, adding that government will continue to support athletes though investments into the upgrading of facilities.
“We are hoping that Mr Benjamin’s achievement will inspire any of our athletes who are aspiring. We have our own Cejhae Greene and our own young track & field star [Joella Lloyd] to come and they are still young and have an opportunity to go to that next level and so, we would have commissioned our new YASCO track [surface] which would have given the national athletics association an opportunity to be able to take the game to another level. They can count on the government for additional support as we continue to support our young people in going to that next level,” he said.
Rai represented Antigua and Barbuda at the 2013 World Youth Championships. In 2015, he won a silver medal for Antigua and Barbuda in the 400 meters at the 2015 CARIFTA Games.