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Athing Mu Becomes the First American to Win the 800 at the World Championships

The 20-year-old followed up her gold medal from Tokyo last summer with a performance she didn't know she had in her.

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Athing Mu hasn’t lost an 800 in over two years, since February 2020. Today in Eugene, Oregon, the streak continued.

Mu’s 1:56.30 performance in the 800 meter final makes her the youngest woman to ever win both Olympic and World Championships gold.

“I’m thankful to be holding the momentum from Tokyo last summer,” she said. “But today was a rough day for me. I just wasn’t physically where I wanted to be.”

In the final 100 meters, Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain came up on Mu on the inside. Mu was running on the outside of lane one, which gave Hodgkinson a clear window to sneak through and pass. But Mu wouldn’t let up. As soon as she sensed how close Hodgkinson was she cut back in to the middle of the lane to prevent the pass. Hodgkinson, who is also 20, finished in second in a time of 1:56.38, which is her second silver medal in two years; she also placed second in the Tokyo Olympic Games last summer.

When asked about the potential tactical error, Mu said, “I didn’t want to automatically go to the inside. I don’t really pay attention to where I’m at in the lane.” Mu’s background is as a sprinter, and they’re taught to run on the outside of lane one. A distance runner would never do that.

RELATED: Athing Mu, Ajee Wilson, and Raevyn Rogers Hope to Dominate the 800 Meters

Mary Morra of Kenya finished third in 1:56.71, a personal best. The three women all improved on Mu’s season best time of 1:57.01, which was the previous world lead this year.

Even though she won the race, Mu said she didn’t feel that great out there. This entire year she’s been winning by small margins, as though she does just what it takes to win. Last year there were a number of times when she wasn’t afraid to run alone off the front of the pack. It’s true that her times last year were faster: She ran 1:55 twice in 2021.

“I’ve gone through so many changes, so many adjustments this year,” she said. “Not everybody sees it, but it was a lot
just being able to come out here. Winning means a lot to me because I know what I’ve been going through.”

Mu cites her support system and her faith as the main reason for her steadiness. Her boyfriend, Brandon Miller, also competed in the 800 this week at the World Championships.

Looking to the future, she said, “For now, I’m just trying to take it day by day, race by race.”

RELATED: Athing Mu Edges Out Ajee’ Wilson for the 800 Meter Title