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Tim Benjamin retires

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Former World 400m finalist Tim Benjamin has announced his retirement with immediate effect. The 27 year old Cardiff athlete who also won World youth gold and European junior gold has called time on his career due to a succession of injuries. He said: “The injuries and illnesses I have endured over the last four years have been well documented, with my absence from last summer's Olympic Games representing the pinnacle of disappointment and frustration. “Although this decision may seem sudden, it is the culmination of incessant setbacks. I have already talked about how my 2008 disappointment almost caused me to leave the sport, but I was determined to end my career on my own terms when the time arrived.

“I feel incredibly proud that I have come back from a very difficult period in my life to achieve the qualifying time for the 2009 IAAF World T&F Championships and win the European Cup for my country. Taking an individual or relay spot in Berlin from an aspiring 2012 Olympian would be disingenuous and unfair when I am unable to enjoy competing the way I used to.

"I must thank the many, many people who have supported me over the last decade. There are many, but most notably, my wife Natalie and family, my early coaches at Cardiff AAC, Jock Anderson, Tony Lester, Colin Jackson, all my training partners, my manager Ricky Simms and the team at PACE Sports Management. Most recently my collaboration with Linford Christie and his training group has been refreshing and enjoyable. I am thankful for the continued support I have received from Dave Scott and Nike - my long time sponsors.

"Everybody at UK Athletics, in particular the medical team, has been fantastic. They have certainly had their work cut out with me but have never wavered in their support and dedication. I also thank all the media who reported on my performances over the years.

"I am enormously grateful for the opportunities and friends this amazing sport has brought me and look forward to using the passion I have for it in another way in the near future.”

Tim joined Cardiff AAC as a teenage sprinter and soon became an important member of the club’s Young Athletes' League team, running 100m and 200m and the occasional 400m. An obviously talented athlete, Tim was guided by coach Tom Meyer and won his first UK national title in 1997 over 200m in the under 17 age group while only 14.

In 1998, still only 16, Tim was selected to represent Great Britain in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Annecy, France. While Cardiff’s Christian Malcolm was winning both 100m and 200m world titles, Tim was gaining valuable experience in the 200m where he did well to qualify for the second round, as well as being a member of the Great Britain 4 x 100m relay team. During 1998, Tim set a personal best of 20.98sec in the 200m as well as running a 48.5sec 400m at Aberdare.

A major breakthrough for Tim came the following year when he won the 200m gold medal in the first ever IAAF World Youth championships. He followed this by gaining a silver medal in the European Junior Championships and improving his 200m time to 20.60sec. In 2000, he competed for the second time in the IAAF World Junior Championships, winning a bronze medal in the 200m and gold in the 4 x 100m relay.

The year 2001 saw Tim emerge as a specialist 400m runner when he won the European Junior Championships title in 46.43sec in only his fourth serious race over the distance. In the same championships, he added two further golds to his growing collection of medals in the 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relays. He was helped by having Olympic silver medallist Roger Black as a mentor and, over the next few years, established himself as Britain’s top 400m runner. Tim had represented Wales in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester (still only 20); reaching the semi finals of the 400m and helping the Welsh team to a silver medal in the 4 x 400m relay. In the same year he represented Great Britain over 400m in the IAAF World Cup.

Further successes came thick and fast, including a silver medal in the European under 23 Championships in 2003 and a winning performance for Great Britain in the European Cup of 2004. His biggest career breakthrough came in 2005 when he broke the 45 second barrier to win at the London Grand Prix over Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner in 44.75. He went on to set his best ever time of 44.56sec for 400m in Monaco.

In the European Championships of 2006, he came sixth with 45.89 but, by now, his career was being hampered by injuries and illness. After a difficult 2007, his training was badly affected by sinusitis in 2008 and it ultimately led to him curtailing his season.

The start to 2009 looked promising and it was to be hoped that Tim’s injury and illness problems were behind him. He was back in the British team for the European Team Championships where he contributed a solid win in the 400m in 45.57sec. Despite missing out on the UK’s world championships trials, Tim ran in the Golden League meeting in Paris last Friday managing sixth place in 46.32sec. This was to be the final race of a distinguished career but Tim can look back and be very proud of what he has achieved in athletics.

All of us in Cardiff wish Tim every success in the future, along with Natalie, another very good Cardiff AAC athlete whom Tim married not so long ago.