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Who is Rai Benjamin’s father? Meet the US hurdler’s family

Bruno Cooke August 3, 2021
rai benjamin father
Photo by Brendan Read/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

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Dubbed a “superduellen”, or super duel, and the “best race in Olympic history”, Rai Benjamin’s 400m hurdles final – in which he lost to Norwegian rival Karsten Warholm – was highly anticipated. Now, public attention has turned towards the American’s parents. So, who are Rai Benjamin’s father and mother?

Who is Rai Benjamin’s father?

American professional hurdler and sprinter Rai Benjamin – now the second fastest man in history in the 400m hurdles event – has sporting blood.

His father, Winston Benjamin, is a former Antiguan cricketer for the West Indies. He played his last One Day International in 1995.

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12 APRIL 1995: WEST INDIES BOWLER WINSTON BENJAMIN CELEBRATES WITH HIS TEAM MATES AFTER HIS L.B.W. WICKET AGAINST DAVID BOON OF AUSTRALIA DURING THE FOURTH DAYS PLAY IN THE WETS INDIES V AUSTRALIA SECOND TEST MATCH IN ST. JOHNS, ANTIGUA. Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason/ALLSPORT

STEVEN GERRARD TO ASTON VILLA IS WRONG.

Born 1964, Winston Keithroy Matthew Benjamin received a Viv Richards scholarship in 1985. He played at Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club in the Liverpool Competition and, the next year, transferred to Leicestershire County Cricket Club.

Where did Winston Benjamin go from there?

He moved to Hampshire from 1994 to 1996 but, all the while, represented the West Indies in international competitions. He made his Test debut, playing for the “Windies”, on the 1987-88 tour.

Sadly though, his career was stop-start. Soon enough, he was back in Antigua with his two kids – Rai and his younger sister. 

As of 2017, Rai Benjamin’s father – “once regarded as the next big thing of the West Indies cricket team” – was earning just $70 a day for fixing sight screens and boundary boards at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium.

Did Rai ever play cricket like his father?

The US hurdler spent a chunk of his childhood, between the ages of four and nine, and again for seventh and eighth grades, in Antigua with his uncle. 

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But, unlike his father, his heart wasn’t set on cricket. The Indian Express quotes him as saying, shortly before the Tokyo Olympics, that he is “not a cricket person”.

“I was never so much into cricket, [although I] might have played a few games during carnivals and Sunday afternoon festivals.”

Incidentally, Rai’s father, Winston Benjamin, describes his son’s cricketing abilities in the following terms: “absolutely crappy”.

“I never know why he chose track and not cricket. All I knew [was] I would back him whatever he chose”, Winston told the Mumbai Mirror in June this year.

When did Rai Benjamin become eligible to represent the US?

Rai attended Mount Vernon High School in New York. Until 30 December 2016, however, he was only able to represent Antigua at international competitions. 

He then became eligible to represent the US at National Representative Competitions from 3 October, 2018. Rai wrote about the experience of receiving the much-awaited notification shortly afterwards, in December.

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Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“I had to walk out of class to make sure it really was what it said: I was finally cleared to represent the United States of America.”

“Between the ages of four and nine I lived in Antigua with my uncle,” he wrote. “Then I moved back to New York for two years to again live with Mom.”

“She worked hard, so hard that it was often super-late when she got home, and it was tough: when I was back in Antigua I’d miss her a lot, but in New York I’d miss the rest of my family and my cousins. It’s why, after two years, I moved back to Antigua to do seventh and eighth grade there, before again going back to New York to finish high school.”

Who is Rai’s mother?

Rai lived with his mother, Gale – apparently a shortening of Jeanette (Mason-Appleton) – whom Winston credits with Rai’s success.

“She’s a wonderful human being and a loving mother”, he told The Indian Express. “In America, we could have easily lost him. There are so many distractions. But she did a terrific job in raising him as he is now and had worked really hard for him.”

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Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Mason-Appleton is an administrator in the field of childhood development. 

“This is real now,” she said, following confirmation that he had made the cut for Team USA. “It’s been a long journey and Rai has been running track since he was 3 years old.”

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.