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By Neto Baptiste

USA’s 400 meters hurdler, Rai Benjamin, is looking forward to participating in the postponed 2020 Olympic Games slated for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo, Japan despite ongoing protest against the scheduled hosting of the event.

Rai, who is the son of former national and West Indies fast bowler Winston Benjamin, noted that organisers have said they will be forging ahead with the planned hosting of the Games amidst increased Covid-19 cases in Japan, but added he will remain focused on the task at hand.

“I know that there has been a lot of protest and concerns expressed by the Japanese citizens about having the Olympics happen, but I feel as though a lot of money has been spent and I think it’s going to happen until the Olympics governing body says otherwise, and to my knowledge, I think they have gone ahead to say the Games will happen,” he said.

“I’ve been fully vaccinated and I’ve been really cautious, so I am not worried too much about it and when I go over there [Japan] I am going to try my best to be careful, stay safe and compete to the best of my ability,” he added. 

Last week, Rai impressed in his first 400m hurdles race of the season with a world-leading 47.13 seconds, breaking Hilmer Lodge Stadium’s facility record, at the USA Track & Field Golden Games.

The former Antiguan athlete is however, not getting overly excited just yet.

“There’s a lot more things that I need to work on because my race is so technical and things are constantly changing. I feel as though it’s hard to necessarily say percentage wise how ready I am. I feel pretty good right now fitness wise but that race is so technical that’s it’s going to take some more time to fine tune some things,” he said. 

The athlete welcomed the reopening of key areas and facilities that will aid in his further development.

“We have access to facilities now and we’re back into the full swing of practice as it would have been had there not been a pandemic so I am grateful for that and the work is really showing itself so I am happy for it. We have a routine, we have a schedule down so I am excited to keep going,” he said.

Rai competed for Antigua and Barbuda at the 2013 World Youth Championships in Ukraine and reached the semifinals. He also ran for the country at the 2015 World Relays.