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For the 800 meters, the U.S. is sending the reigning Olympic gold medalist and the indoor world champion to Eugene to hopefully bring home some medals for Team USA. It’s one of the later events of the World Championships; the heats don’t start until next week, and the final takes place on Sunday, July 24 at 6:35.
American middle-distance phenom Athing Mu is a once-in-a-generation athlete (and one of Women’s Running 2022 Power Women) who, at age 20, is already the best in the world in the 800 meters even though she is just starting to reach her potential. She enters the world championships in Eugene ranked No. 1 in the world and the favorite to win gold in the 800.
After a record-setting high school career in New Jersey, she burst onto the world stage in 2021 with a series of stellar performances. She was a double NCAA champion in her one year at Texas A&M in 2021, winning the 400 meters in a collegiate record 49.57 and running a leg of the Aggies winning 4x400m relay, and then after turning pro and signing a long-term endorsement deal with Nike, she won the gold medal in the 800m at the Tokyo Olympics and ran the anchor leg on Team USA’s winning 4x400m relay.
Mu capped her stellar 2021 season by setting a new American record of 1:55.04 for 800m, which puts her as the eighth-fastest runner on the women’s all-time list. Experts believe she might be capable of breaking the long-standing world record of Czech runner Jarmila Kratochvílová (1:53.28, 1983), the oldest record in track and field. So far this season her best is the world-leading 1:57.01 effort she recorded winning the event at the Diamond League meet in Rome in early June, but her front-running style could put her in position to run a new personal best in the July 24 final in Eugene.
Former University of Oregon star Raevyn Rogers is ranked No. 5 in the world in the 800 meters entered the World Athletics Championships in Eugene with a 1:57.96 effort. However, the 25-year-old runner is only the third-best runner in the event from the U.S. after taking third behind Athing Mu and Ajee’ Wilson at the U.S. championships in late June in what was the fastest American 800m race in history.
Rogers won a bronze medal in the 800 meters at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 in a personal best of 1:56.81, becoming the fourth-fastest woman in U.S. history in the event. At the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Rogers earned the silver medal in the 800 with an amazing kick that helped her move up from seventh place down the final homestretch.
Former Women’s Running cover star Ajee’ Wilson is having a stellar season, winning the world indoor championships in February in the 800 meters and coming in hot on Mu’s trail during the outdoor U.S. championships last month. In that race she pushed Mu, the Olympic gold medalist, to the last 50 meters, even overtaking her at one point.
“We go into races with like two or three plans, and that was one of three,” Wilson says. “So the way it played out was just like, OK, I’m here and close. I gotta give it one more shot. In the build up in the weeks prior, I felt like I was ready to be competitive.”
The short break between the U.S. champs and worlds is a positive for Wilson, who’s grateful for a short turnaround after her impressive showing last month and a positive training buildup the last few weeks.
“I’m starting each week kind of more mindful and appreciative of the journey, and thankful that I’m still able to be competitive,” says Wilson of her 10th season of running.
Best part of training: “My favorite part is probably the warm-up. At our practices, we don’t know what we have for the day’s workout until we go through our warm-up. We go through our drills, we do our strides, and we get to the line and we figure out what we have for the day. It’s a little more social. It’s like the calm before the storm.”
Worst part of training: “The worst part might be the cool down, cause I enjoy working hard, but after you’re done, it’s like, I kind of just wanna get some food. I wanna eat. I wanna go home. It’s necessary but I wish I could skip this part.”
Best advice ever received: “I was talking to one of my mentors and I said something like, ‘Yeah, I was so angry!’ And she said, ‘Oh, were you angry?’ And we talked through what actually happened, how I was feeling. I realized I wasn’t actually angry. I was upset. I was sad, but I had misplaced it as being angry. And I feel like whether on the track or off the track, being able to just know how I feel about something helps me be more prepared to problem solve and be more present.”
Pre-race superstitions: “I have a routine and it’s like, I’ll take a nap, I get up, I do my hair and play “I was Here” by Beyoncé on loop. Those are my go-to things that I like to do before race.”