Rai Benjamin Cleared To Compete For The U.S.

One of the fastest hurdlers of all-time will be competing for the United States next track season. 

Rai Benjamin, who ran the collegiate record and third fastest mark of all-time in the 400m hurdles in 2018, was notified on Thursday by the USATF that the IAAF Nationality Review Panel had approved Benjamin's request to transfer his allegiance to the United States "with immediate effect."

Benjamin was born in the United States, but represented Antigua and Barbuda at the 2013 World Youth Championships and the 2015 World Relays. His request to compete for the United States was delayed when the IAAF announced a freeze in February of 2017 on athlete's switching allegiances. The governing body made the move to curb the prevalence of East African athletes transferring to Middle Eastern countries. 

"My situation is kind of different from every other athlete. I am American, but I competed for another country, where my parents are from," Benjamin said.

Benjamin continued to compete in the NCAA system, first for UCLA during the 2017 season and then USC in 2018. At USC he was part of a national championship indoor 4x400m relay team that ran the fastest time ever recorded. 

The mark, however, could not be ratified as a world record because IAAF rules dictate that all four members of the relay team must represent the same nation. Since Benjamin was still affiliated with Antigua and Barbuda, USC was not eligible

In June at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Benjamin lowered his personal best in the 400m hurdles to 47.02--a collegiate record and tied for the third fastest mark of all-time. Benjamin announced after the meet that he was turning pro, though the issue regarding his allegiance was still unresolved throughout the summer. Benjamin said in late May that he was looking into finding legal representation to help him expedite the process. 

But at the end of July, the IAAF lifted the freeze and put in place new guidelines for athletes including a three-year waiting period for any athlete who wishes to switch nations and a minimum age requirement of 20-years-old.

Benjamin now becomes the clear favorite at next year's U.S. Championships and gives the United States a good chance at gold in an event they haven't won at the World Championships since 2009.