Kenny Bednarek, Olympic silver medallist- anonymous in USA, finds stardom in India

In Olympic Games

Eyes turn when Kenny Bednarek strides into the athletics track at Bengaluru’s Kanteerava Stadium. It’s a Saturday morning and the track is fairly crowded – there are athletes going through their paces, parents watching from the sidelines, and also a few weekend runners. The Patna Pirates kabaddi team is here as well, practising ahead of the Pro Kabaddi League that begins next month.

But everything stops soon after Bednarek shows up. Few knew Bednarek — at the stadium for a photo shoot — was coming over. A couple of senior athletes are the first to identify the current 200m Olympic and World silver medallist, and for everyone training becomes a bit of an afterthought. The photo shoot – which needs Kenny to run a few laps of the track — must wait too.

Parents push children, with wide grins, to click pictures with him. More enterprising kids procure scraps of paper for autographs. A coach grills him about training patterns and food habits. Other athletes – many with little command over English – listen intently. A few look on enviously at his rippling muscles. A few minutes in, the state athletics association head appears with a garland and shawl to felicitate him. A few athletes work up the courage to ask Bednarek to run with them and he generously obliges. 

Olympic silver medallist Kenny Bednarek at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru

Olympic silver medallist Kenny Bednarek at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru
| Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

“It must be good to be a celebrity. Everyone wants to take your picture,” remarks 10-year-old KC Aiyappa, who’s just started training. Even the Pirates – the most successful team in PKL history and runner-up last year – concur. They, too, walk around the track for a discreet look. 

Bednarek admits that he enjoys the attention. “It’s amazing. The moment I came into the stadium the energy was up. Everyone was excited to see me, and I was excited to meet them. India has shown me a lot of love,” he says.