By Neto Baptiste
US-hurdler Rai Benjamin has dubbed his silver medal in the 400m hurdles at the just ended 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, a “citizen medal”.
Rai is the son of former West Indies and Antigua fast bowler Winston Benjamin and Gale Mason, who is originally from Newfield Village, but now resides in the US.
In an interview on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show on Wednesday, Rai said that although he represents the US, his heart and mind are also with Antigua and Barbuda whenever he competes.
“My passport is expired but last time I checked, I was still a citizen. My mom is Antiguan, my dad is Antiguan and my whole family is from Antigua, so it is a citizen medal I would say because my blood and heritage is Antiguan and there is just no secret about that. Although I didn’t represent Antigua and I didn’t have that on my chest, it was still something that is in the back of my head going into the Olympics — that I am not just running for the United States and everyone here but also everyone back at home,” he said.
The Antiguan citizen clocked 46.17 seconds, the second-fastest time in history for his silver medal at his first Olympics. He was bettered only by Norway’s Karsten Warholm who took .76 off his previous world record of 46.70 to finish first with a time of 45.94 seconds.
Rai said he was surprised with the amount of support he received out of Antigua and Barbuda.
“It was crazy. I had no idea I had all that amount of support back home. Also, I would just like to thank the government for granting my family permission to have a safe watch party for me back home because I think it was after curfew, so I just want to thank them for that; but I just did not know and it was just crazy to see the amount of people supporting me, watching me run and stuff like that, so it felt really good,” he said.
“I grew up there [in Antigua] and that is no secret and when I decided to run for the US, I didn’t know what the reaction would be, so I was just very surprised with the amount of support and I am eternally grateful for it,” he added.
The athlete returned with the USA’s men’s 4×400 relay team to win gold in a time of 2:55.70 (two minutes, 55.70 seconds).
The Antiguan said he is still trying to process the experience.
“Everything is still kind of fresh. I got off the phone on Monday so I am still trying to process, so I am still trying to reflect on my performance and what I did. It’s definitely a blessing to come away with two medals because not a lot of people get to do that, yet alone be on the Olympic stage, and even that in itself is a worthy accomplishment,” he said. Rai, who is set to compete this weekend in the US, hinted that he could visit Antigua later this year.