Kenny Bednarek: I Don’t Want To Be That Guy Racking Up Silvers

“I made a name for myself in track and field history but we’ve got a lot more stuff to do and a lot more to accomplish.”

Jasmine Todd and Katelyn Hutchison are joined by Kenny Bednarek. At just 24 years old, he’s already made a name for himself on the global stage with two individual global medals under his belt – a 200m silver at the Tokyo Olympics and another at the 2022 World Championships. Kenny has proven that he’s a force to be reckoned with. His journey to becoming a professional athlete and on top the podium hasn’t always been easy. He grew up in Rice Lake, Wisconsin and attended Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. Kenny has had to overcome being overlooked and carry the weight of a chip on his shoulder. In this conversation, Kenny opens up about his path to success, his adoption story and the hard work and determination it took to get where he is today.

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Kenny Bednarek Out Of The Blocks


On the World Championship final:

“I wasn’t pretty happy about that. Noah freaking blasted that turn and destroyed everybody. I was pretty upset about it but congrats to him. He worked his butt off to have a good turn like that. In my mind, I was there. All of the hard work I did a couple of months prior, I laid it all on the line in that race. I gave it my all. I ended up getting second. I was pissed about it because my girlfriend calls me Mr. No. 2 sometimes just to kind of get me to work harder. She’s my biggest supporter. I don’t want to be that guy that keeps racking up silvers. I was like, ‘Oh dang. I was close again.’ Considering all the circumstances, I was very happy to be on the podium again.”

What he thinks is the best part of his race:

“In the Olympic year, I was training and trying to work on everything. In my first race, I flipped a switch and my start was just crazy. I had been working on that. The last thing I’ve been focused on is the last 50 meters of my race because my start is good but I need to build off of that to extend my lead. I’ve had an issue with having a lead and letting it go in the last 50 meters. I’m trying to work on that. I would say I’m one of the best starters for the 200m. I just give it my all on that turn. I wish it was the same in the 100m. I don’t know why it’s just difficult for me to have that same mentality in the 100m. That’s something I’ve been trying to work on.”

On the Team USA ‘Big 3’ in the 200m – Kenny Bednarek, Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton:

“It’s cool to be up there and be in that Big 3. I remember in Tokyo I was kind of expecting that same thing with the 1-2-3 Americans but then Andre (DeGrasse) derailed that. I remember being in the back before we went onto the track and I was talking to Noah. I said, ‘Hey, are you ready to make a sweep’ and I started making a little sweeping motion. Andre came in and shocked us all. To be part of the Big 3 is an amazing experience. We’re all hard workers. Every time we step on the track, we know it’s going to be 1-2-3. We just all go back to practice and grind it out because we know we’re going to lay it all on the line. Every single time I see Erriyon or Noah, I know I have to give it my all or else they’re gonna edge me out.”

What race made him realize he was a threat

“I would say in the Olympic year, I had two races that I kind of solidified myself. One was in Gateshead when it was raining. I had my teammate Aaron (Brown) and Andre there. It was pretty cold and I ended up having a pretty good lead in the race. I won the race [in 20.33 with -3.0 m/s wind] and for me that was an ‘I’m here and I’ve arrived’ moment. I guess another one would have been at Mt. SAC when I opened up in the Olympic year against Noah. I blasted the turn and I ate him up but he ended up getting me in the last 30m. In that race, I was thinking, ‘I got this’ and got too overconfident. That was another ‘I’ve arrived’ moment but he snuffed that away from me. That was another good race of mine as well.”

The future of the 200m

“The 200m is so elevated. You’ve got me, Noah and Erriyon and you’ve got a lot of other young athletes that are coming up too. Joseph Fahnbulleh and Alex Ogando are good. Every year, there’s someone new which makes us work our butts off even more. We can’t be too relaxed. There are always going to be other people out there gunning for that medal. It’s definitely exciting to have so much competition. I love that competition because it makes me strive to get better every time I’m on the track.”

What does he want

“When I’m done in track and field, I want to be the guy who has done something that no one else has done. I want to cement my legacy as the best track and field runner to ever do it. That’s what I’ve been trying to work on. It’s all the small things and big things – diet and everything. I’m trying to get to that elite status where I can be at the very top and the pinnacle of track and field.”

“I’m gonna be gunning for that gold every single year – especially the records. I definitely think I have the talent and work ethic to get Bolt’s records in a few years. In the next few years, I want gold medals and records. That’s the standard I have for myself.”

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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.