American sprint icons explain Kenny Bednarek's growth in the 4x100m relays ahead of Paris Olympics

American sprint icons explain Kenny Bednarek's growth in the 4x100m relays ahead of Paris Olympics

Mark Kinyanjui 14:26 - 22.06.2024

Gatlin and Spearmon have explained how Kenny Bednarek has grown as a relay sprinter over the last three years, having been extremely raw at the delayed Tokyo Olympics.

Former American sprinters Justin Gatlin and Wallace Spearmon have explained why they feel Kenny Bednarek is now ripe enough to help the US the 4x100m relay team go for the title at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

Bednarek was part of the team that strolled to victory at the World Relays Championships in Bahamas in May, with US stepping up preparations as they aim to bring back the gold medal that has long eluded them for a long time.

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It has not been plain-sailing for Bednarek, who has had to deal with injuries over the last two years, which has hindered his development as a sprinter since winning the 200m silver medal at the Olympic games in Tokyo back in 2021.

He was also a diamond in the rough, with Gatlin now explaining why it took quite a while for Bednarek to become the athlete he is now on his Ready Set Go podcast.

 "When Kenny came into the professional world, he only knew one gear, 'go,'" Gatlin remarked. 

"He did not understand the nuances of track and field. Now he is learning the game, how to run 100s, how to run 200s, and how to excel as an elite athlete."

Gatlin described Bednarek as naturally built for sprinting, with a physique conducive to rapid turnover and athletic success. He emphasised Bednarek's new-found confidence and ability to execute flawless relay handoffs—a crucial skill in team events.

Wallace Spearmon, offering insights into Bednarek's unconventional path to elite status, highlighted his stint at a junior college and experience in cross-country running. 

"Kenny did not follow the traditional start of a normal sprinter," Spearmon explained. "He emerged as the fastest sprinter on his junior college team, lacking the typical collegiate relay experiences that many sprinters benefit from."

Spearmon also shared a humorous anecdote from their preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, where Bednarek's unorthodox approach initially raised eyebrows among coaches. 

Tasked with coaching the relay team alongside Dennis Mitchell, Spearmon recalled the moment when Bednarek's suitability for the relay team was questioned.

"Two days before the event in Tokyo, I was informed I would be the relay team coach," Spearmon recounted. "Dennis (Mitchell) raised concerns about Kenny's start, suggesting he might not be suited for the lead-off position."

Despite initial skepticism, Bednarek's track record and competitive spirit ultimately earned him a pivotal role in the relay squad. Spearmon humorously described Mitchell's reaction when questioned about Bednarek's relay experience, gesturing a zero with his hand—an indication of Bednarek's relative inexperience in relay races.

As the Paris Olympics draw near, Kenny Bednarek stands as a testament to perseverance and unconventional paths in sports.

 His journey from injury setbacks to becoming a linchpin in America's relay ambitions exemplifies the unpredictable nature and potential rewards of elite competition. With his blend of raw talent and newfound expertise, Bednarek is poised to play a crucial role in the US team's quest for Olympic gold.