Kenneth Medwood isn’t a name that immediately comes to mind when thinking of Olympians from Long Beach State.
Medwood, a hurdler who competed for Belize in the 2012 London Games, doesn’t have the fame and success of Misty May-Treanor or the lengthy resumÃ© of five-time Olympian Danielle Scott-Arruda. What he does have, however, is the distinction of being one of the few athletes honored with the privilege of carrying his country’s flag during the opening ceremonies.
“I didn’t really want to carry it,” Medwood said. “I felt someone else deserved the honor … the delegates nominated me because I was the only Belizean athlete to qualify.”
Medwood raced in the 400-meter hurdles but failed to advance past the semifinals. As a recent graduate of Cal State Long Beach, however, even qualifying for the Olympics is quite an accomplishment.
The 25-year-old earned his degree in sports psychology last spring after competing for the Long Beach State track and field team in 2009 and 2010. Medwood has been focusing on furthering his professional career ever since running out of NCAA eligibility, but that didn’t prevent him from finishing his degree.
Before Medwood joined The Beach, he spent a couple years at East Los Angeles College. When the time came to transfer, LBSU presented itself as his best option.
“I think Long Beach didn’t have the best track program, but it was the best for me at that time,” Medwood said. “One of the main reasons for coming here is because of Coach [Gary] Cablyan, who was at [LBSU] at the time. I can attribute about 60-70 percent of my success to him.”
Cablyan and a scholarship that paid for about half of Medwood’s college expenses led him to LBSU, where he had an immediate impact on the track. In his two years as a 49er, Medwood earned six All-Big West Conference recognitions across various events. He was the individual conference champion in the 400-meter hurdles as a senior and was a two-time national qualifier. The Los Angeles native still holds the LBSU record time of 49.66 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles.
Now that the Olympics are over, Medwood is coaching part-time at nearby Lakewood High School. He also spends some of his time working as a personal trainer.
Medwood’s new job may provide him with some relief from the hardcore training that the Olympics require, but it also holds little of the glory that Olympians enjoy every four years.
He also doesn’t get many chances to go through the pre-meet rituals that he became so accustomed to leading up to the Olympics. Medwood said that those rituals helped reassure him of his ability to compete at the highest level.
“The night before a big competition, I lay my clothes on a chair in the order I put them on the following day,” Medwood said. “I also watch some of my previous races where I had success such as the first time I reached 49 seconds in the 400 meter. I was really nervous before that race, but I took complete control.”
According Cablayan, Medwood’s coach of more than six years, much more goes into Medwood’s success than the organization of clothes or the viewing of tape.
“He’s very mature, respectful and so disciplined, and he carries these qualities to the track,” Cablayan said. “He pushes his body to the limit and doesn’t hold back no matter what the outcome.”
That doesn’t mean Medwood is all intensity though. Close friend and former teammate Kunhee Bang said that being serious isn’t always one of Medwood’s most prominent characteristics.
“He’s always in a good mood when he’s warming up with his constant jokes and how he teases people,” Bang said. “He’s a really funny dude.”
For now, Medwood is taking a break from competition. His obligations to Lakewood are keeping him busy at the moment, but like most Olympic athletes, he is enjoying his time away from gruelling training and preparation.
Whether Medwood is still taking a break three or four years from now remains to be seen.