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MVHS Alum Rai Benjamin Joins Team USA in Tokyo Olympic Games

Rai Benjamin

When the Olympic Games get underway in Tokyo, starting this Friday, July 22, watch for hometown track star Rai Benjamin, a Mount Vernon High School alumnus, and now a member of Team USA.

Look for Benjamin in the men’s 400-yard hurdles during the Tokyo Games. His sport will be aired on WNBC on July 29-Aug. 2.

Now a California resident, the Olympian graduated from MVHS in 2015.

Benjamin earned his spot in the international games Olympic Trials at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon on June 26, when he finished the 400-meter hurdles with the second-fastest time ever run in the world – 46.83 seconds. That left him just .05 of a second behind American Kevin Young’s record 46.78-second run set in 1992.

(Competition has been robust, however; on July 1, Norwegian Karsten Warholm shaved .08 of a second off Young’s time to set a new record of 46.70 seconds. Benjamin holds the third-fastest time.)

The Olympian, who turns 24 on Tuesday, July 27, is intensely focused on preparing for the competition on the international stage, said his mother, Jeanette Mason-Appleton.

“He is just trying to be in that frame of mind to focus on what he needs to focus on,” she said. She traveled to Oregon for the finals, along with Benjamin’s father, younger sister, and uncle. Once he made the team, his mother became emotional upon seeing fans, friends, and other supporters, including some from Mount Vernon, posting congratulations and encouragement on his social media pages.

“This is real now,” Mason-Appleton said. “It’s been a long journey and Rai has been running track since he was 3 years old.”

At MVHS, Benjamin was a three-time New York State Public High School Athletic Association champion. In the six years since, he has continued to earn medals and wins.

At the 2018 NCAA championships, he clocked 47.02 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles final. That was then the second-fastest time in history, tied with American Edwin Moses, who clocked the time in 1983.

The following year, he earned gold and silver medals in the world championship. He earned the gold in the 4X400-meter relay and took the silver in the 400-meter hurdles.

In the Tokyo Games, the men’s 400-meter hurdles will be shown on WNBC at the following days and times. (Eastern Standard Time.)

  • July 29, 9:55 p.m. – Round 1
  • Aug. 1, 8:05 a.m. – Semi-finals
  • Aug. 2, 11:20 p.m. – Finals

His fans in Mount Vernon and elsewhere will be watching.

“It’s breathtaking,” his mother said. “You have to catch your breath and realize that it’s really happening.”