Rice Lake's Kenny Bednarek aims for one spot better, gold in Paris

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jan 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-12 18:09:00-05

Kenny Bednarek is fast. Including this speedy trip, back home.

"Yeah I haven't been home, since last Christmas," Kenny Bednarek says. "So just to come up here. See the snow. See the family, it just, it means the world to me. Barely get the chance to see them. So, I don't know, every single time I come home? It's just reminiscing and just, glad to be here."

Here, is Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

"As you know, it's a town of 8,000 people," Bednarek says. "Maybe a little bit more now. Everybody knows each other. Everybody supports each other. So it just made me be humble, even when I was on top of the world."

From Florida, where he trains. To Tokyo, where he earned a silver medal in the 200? This young man from Northern Wisconsin defies the odds.

"My whole life has kind of been like that," Bednarek says. "I mean I was adopted. So, realistically the route I already took is already, you know, tall. You know just being adopted, being in Oklahoma, being in Rice Lake. Like, most people don't, you know get in this situation when coming from a small town."

Now finishing second in the 2020 Olympics? Kenny embraces possibly being the second fastest human in the world. But he wants more.

"It adds motivation because I was that close to getting the gold that one time," Bednarek says. "So every time I see it? You know it's always like dang, I almost had it. So now what do I gotta do different to get it this year you know. So yeah, it's just like I said. It's out there for display and it's a constant reminder of what I could have had back then. But now, you know, it's the goal to get this year. And being the second fastest is nice, but I wanna be, you know, the number one. So far the past couple years it's eluded me. The goal is to get number one and you know stay on top when I get there."

So there's only one thing left, in Paris. And that's gold.

"It means everything," Bednarek says. "Like I said, we went to Toyko. The whole Covid situation kind of made everything a little bit weird. You know, we weren't able to have family and friends out there. So just being in the stadium and just seeing empty stands. It was just a weird feeling. Like, I said this is my second chance of getting that gold medal. And I'll be able to actually have my friends and family there. And it's going to mean the world. Like, I think we're going to get the job done this year."

So watch for Kung Fu Kenny. Who even aims, to back up, his catchy nickname.

"You're Kung Fu Kenny, but do you actually know kung fu?" Bednarek says. "And I remember somebody asked me that so we started picking that up just to, you know, make it more legit. I finally got myself a little round kick."

Reporter Lance Allan asks: "That's awesome! So can actually do a couple of moves?"

"I can do a couple but it's very slow right now. Just because I just started taking my lessons."

Kenny Bednarek travels internationally, and still gets Rice Lake, where's that? But when he's announced? He's proud to put it on the map.