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Visualizing gold: Kenny Bednarek's mantra for Paris, courtesy an Indian yogi

How an Indian yogi is helping the Tokyo silver-medalist go one up this year.

Visualizing gold: Kenny Bednareks mantra for Paris, courtesy an Indian yogi
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The U.S. sprinter will run the Men's 100m and 200m at Paris 2024. (Photo credit: @kenny_bednarek)

By

Rahul Kargal

Updated: 6 July 2024 8:34 AM GMT

When Kenny Bednarek was pipped at the post by Noah Lyles at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials at Oregon late last month, disappointment was written large on his face.

He then took stock of the time. At 19.59s, the sprinter from Oklahoma had clocked a personal best and in doing so, had booked his spot in the U.S. Men’s 200m squad for Paris 2024.

And despite finishing second after having squandered a lead, the American was composed.

“I'm gonna get him next time,” he said to the media soon after, clearly content and already looking ahead, just as his Yoga guru from India has advised.

Visualizing the race

When Bednarek, a silver medalist in the Men’s 200m at the Tokyo Olympics, was introduced to Manish Pole, a Bangalore-based Yogi, the goal was unanimous – go one up in Paris 2024.

“Kenny wanted to be more explosive off the starting block,” said Pole, in a conversation with The Bridge.

Recognizing Bednarek’s desire to get off to an early lead and dominate the race, the Yogi designed a three-pronged solution – breathing, visualization and gratitude.

Explaining the process, Pole said that ‘each and every cell of the body should be resonating with the same intention.’

For Bednarek, this meant a call-to-action that was rather straightforward - ‘be very crystal clear at the start of the race about the outcome that has to be achieved.’

This, according to Pole, is done by visualization, a process where the sprinter runs the entire race in his mind, 10m by 10m, whilst maintaining form and powering through in an explosive fashion and finishing strong.

And despite doing this for a mere two-months, the results are coming thick and fast for the American.

Channelizing energies

In May this year, at the Diamond League in Doha, the American clocked a then personal best of 19.67s, shaving one hundredth off his previous best from the final at the Tokyo Olympics.

And the outcome at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials at Oregon is a clear indication that the 25-year-old is peaking at the right time.

In addition to visualization, Pole also advocates for inculcating ‘gratitude’ into one’s regime – a process that involves offering thanks to those around oneself. In the case of the sprinter, it was the people that had made a difference in his life – his mother, coaches and loved ones.

But how does breathing right help an athlete?

According to the yogi, breathing helps one control outcomes.

“By slowing down,” Pole said, “you can make other things (move) faster which are important to you.”

Simply put, by controlling his breathing and channelizing his energies whilst visualizing the race beforehand, Bednarek can sprint faster when on the track.

So, does this mean that the American is on course for gold at Paris?

Manish Pole, pictured in a virtual meditation session with Kenny Bednarek. (Photo credit: @manishpole)

Legacy far greater

While most athletes head to the quadrennial event with gold on their mind, the yogi offers a different philosophy.

“Gold is a part of the process and not the end goal. The feeling of contentment at the end of the race is more vital.”

This approach, according to the yogi, is essential not just for winning gold but also for creating a lasting legacy, one that will continue to inspire others long after an athlete hangs up their boots.

And Pole isn’t done just yet with Bednarek.

With virtual meditation sessions scheduled twice a week in the run-up to Paris and through the course of the Olympics itself, ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ – now ranked number-two in the world 200m charts - will be in prime mental conditional come race-day, all thanks to an Indian yogi.

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