Rai Benjamin, the world's second fastest 400m hurdler, has only one target on his mind: "Run faster than I did back in August (at the Tokyo Olympics final)." The 24-year-old, son of former West Indies cricketer Winston Benjamin, will have the global stage to hit his target at the World Athletics Championships set to kick off in Oregon from July 15.
In last year’s epic Olympic 400m hurdles final, Benjamin smashed the previous world record by .53 seconds, but got the silver medal because Norway's Karsten Warholm, running in lane 6 to Benjamin's right, broke his own world record by .76s to set a new one at 45.94s.
Benjamin, who clocked 46.17sec for the second-fastest time in history couldn't digest the defeat. It took him quite a few months to focus on hurdling and asses his Olympic performance.
Born in New York to Winston and Jeanette Mason, he represented Antigua for a few years, before blossoming as an athlete in the US. A formidable athlete, he is competing in an era where Warholm has pushed the event to higher planes. Also, there are many solid athletes in the event who could upstage each other.
In June this year, when Benjamin went to Doha to compete in the Diamond League, despite Warholm's absence, he lost to Brazil's Alison dos Santos, who has the season's best timing at 46.80.
Benjamin heads into the World Championships as the second-best hurdler of the season.
“A gold medal is definitely more important to me. Winning in Oregon, winning at home, will be somewhat more gratifying than breaking the world record and not winning at home," he told World Athletics.