Kenny Bednarek will race for a medal on Wednesday.
The Rice Lake alumnus advanced to the final of the men’s 200-meter dash by taking second place in his semifinal heat on Tuesday night at the Tokyo Olympics. He clocked in at 19.83 seconds, finishing just 0.1 seconds behind Canada’s Andre De Grasse in the heat.
It was more than enough to book a spot in the final — the top two finishers in each heat advanced, and Bednarek beat third-place Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago by 0.27 seconds.
Bednarek led after the turn before De Grasse — the 2016 silver medalist — surged past him to set a personal-best 19.73 seconds, which was the top time in the semifinals. Bednarek’s time was the second-fastest overall in the semis.
“I knew I had it in me,” De Grasse told reporters. “I didn’t expect to go that fast. I wanted to save it for the final, but the American, Kenny, was pushing me a little bit, so I knew I had to make sure that I qualified for the final.”
De Grasse and Bednarek exchanged glances across the final few meters of their semifinal, making sure they’d done enough to book a spot in the final. With the rest of the field well behind him, Bednarek was able to ease up as he crossed the finish line.
In his first Olympic Games, Bednarek has a shot at a medal in his signature event. All three American sprinters reached the final, with fellow Team USA members Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton posting times of 19.99 and 20.02 seconds, respectively.
Lyles, the reigning world champion and gold medal favorite, relaxed while approaching the finish line in his heat. It nearly cost him a spot in the final as he finished with an identical time to Canada’s Aaron Brown and Liberia’s Joseph Fahnbulleh but took third in a photo finish. He managed to qualify for the final by having the fastest time outside of an automatic qualifying spot.
“To be honest, we all ran the same time,” Lyles said. “It’s not even a win-lose type situation. Glad I made it to the finals. That’s all that matters.”
The final consists of three sprinters from the U.S., two from Canada, one from Liberia, one from Jamaica and one from Trinidad and Tobago.
Brown, the other Canadian along with De Grasse, trains with Bednarek and others in Florida.
“I like it,” Brown said. “Whether it’s Andre or it’s Kenny, it’s more familiarity for me. ... So, it’s going to be fun.”
The final will be run at 7:55 a.m. Central Standard Time on Wednesday. It can be streamed live online at NBCOlympics.com. Bednarek will run in lane No. 7.