A Hollywood-style challenge for Rai, son of former cricketer Winston Benjamin

Track and field athlete Rai Benjamin, son of former West Indies fast bowler Winston Benjamin, was second best to Karsten Warholm in Zurich.

Rai Benjamin was second best to Warholm in Zurich.   -  FILE PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES

 

Ahead of the World Athletics Championships heats, athletes Rai Benjamin and Karsten Warholm threw challenges at each other to spice up the tournament.

Rai, son of former West Indies fast bowler Winston Benjamin, threw down the gauntlet to Norway’s 400 metres hurdles world champion Warholm on Thursday declaring, “If Karsten is Gordon Gekko then I am the IRS,” referring to the US Internal Revenue Service.

Warholm has cast himself as Gekko — the immoral financier played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” films whose motto was “greed is good” — adding drama to one of the most eagerly anticipated events on Friday.

Indeed the 27-year-old world record in the event, held by Kevin Young, is seen to be under threat after Warholm and Benjamin produced one of the races of the season at the Diamond League in Zurich in August with both going under the magical 47-second barrier.

Rai was second best to Warholm in Zurich.

READ| IAAF World Championships 2019: A close look at Indians in the fray

The quick-witted Rai, who believes the US trials is the ideal dress rehearsal for the Worlds as they have the same format of heats, semifinals and final, said his father was comfortable with his decision to opt for track and field.

“My father is always there for advice and his prime counsel is trusting in myself,” said the 22-year-old.

“He always provides good advice but he is not my coach (Olympic champions Quincy Watts and Joanna Hayes are his coaches) at the end of the day.

“However, I do take into consideration what he says.”

Rai, whose father will not be present due to a mix-up over the issue of whether he needed a visa, had spoken to Young after the race in Zurich.

READ| World Athletics :Complete schedule, events, timings in IST, Indians in action

Young — who set the world record of 46.78 seconds when winning at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics — said he thinks both Warholm and Benjamin should not blast out of the blocks.

“That is how he (Young) ran — he used to really get going after three hurdles,” said Rai.

“Everyone has a different technique. Karsten runs hard the whole race, I run hard the last 200.

“There is no golden way and nothing written you need to run that way everyone is different. It is what works for you best it is not wise to change your race plan.”

“I kind of lost awareness and where he (Warholm) was in the race,” he said.

“I thought he was there (close to him) then I saw he was out there (far ahead) and from the fifth hurdle I closed a lot. I should be less conservative next time and not hold back as much as I did.”

Rai, who had to bide his time waiting for clearance to represent the USA after competing for Antigua and Barbuda in the 2013 World Youth Championships, is mindful that Qatar’s Saudi Arabia-born Abderrahman Samba is a major threat.

“There is talk about him being hurt and I am not entirely sure what is up,” said Rai, who believes the winner will need to run under 46.9sec.

“I know he is doubling (Samba is also in the 400m flat) so I guess that means he is in shape. He is at home and that will play a huge factor in his performance as he won’t want to disappoint the people.”