Samba wins first duel with Benjamin in Shanghai

By Courtesy of the IAAF May 18, 2019
Abderrahman Samba (left) and Rai Benjamnin. Abderrahman Samba (left) and Rai Benjamnin.

Once again, Abderrahman Samba stole the Diamond League spotlight with another superb performance to highlight the IAAF Diamond League Shanghai on Saturday (18).

Already in the spotlight as the key protagonist in the meeting’s most eagerly anticipated face-off, Samba lived up to expectations with a decisive victory over Rai Benjamin in the pair’s first head-to-head battle.

Running to the Qatari’s outside in lane five, Benjamin, son of former West Indies fast Bowler Winston Benjamin and the third fastest 400m hurdler of all-time, took the early lead, leading Samba, history’s second-fastest ever, by about half a stride until the pair reached the fifth hurdle. Samba briefly pulled ahead, but Benjamin kept up the pressure through the turn as they approached hurdle nine. There, Benjamin lost his rhythm, giving Samba an opening he took full advantage of. Three strides later, Samba was in the lead for good, padding his advantage as he cleared hurdle ten before crossing the line in 47.27, the second fastest time of his career in just his second race of the season. And he did it on less than a handful of restless hours or sleep after losing a battle with jetlag.

“To be honest with you, I couldn't sleep last night,” Samba said. “I fell asleep this morning at about 7 and got up at 10:30. But I’m so happy. It’s my second fastest time so I think the season will be great again like last year.” It was his 12th straight victory.

Only eight other men have ever run faster, Benjamin, who clocked 47.02 last year, among them. Despite his late-race dip in fortunes, the 21-year-old was pleased.

“I was good until (hurdles) 9 and 10 - I wish I could have those hurdles back - but it's fine, it's the season opener so I can't really complain too much,” said Benjamin, whose 47.80 run was also the second fastest of his career. “I didn't go out too strong, he just had it at the end and I didn't. I just have to go home and work on some things and come back.”

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