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Athing Mu spent the pandemic rewriting the collegiate record books as a freshman at Texas A&M. When she finished off the season winning a NCAA title in the 400 meters in 49.57, she came back to Hayward Field two weeks later to win the Olympic Trials in the 800 meters.
Mu (pronounced Mo) looked smooth and polished in her first appearance as a pro (she signed a multi-year deal with Niket after the NCAA championships), taking control of the Trials final with 200 meters to go and finishing in 1:56.07—not just a meet record, but the fastest in the world this year.
At a pre-Trials press conference she confidently said: “I was made for this.”
She’ll face a fierce international field in the most high-pressure competition of her young life. Only the top two in each heat advance automatically from the semi-final to the final. Eleven other athletes have run faster than 1:58 this year and four have clocked faster than 1:57, including Cuba’s Rose Mary Almanza, who ran a personal best (1:56.28) to win the Stockholm Diamond League meet earlier in July. Natoya Goule of Jamaica was second to Almanza in Stockholm in 1:56.44 and Werkwuha Getachew recently set an Ethiopian record of 1:56.67. Great Britain’s Jemma Reekie was second at the Monaco Diamond League in 1:56.96.
Mu is joined on Team USA by two other top contenders. Raevyn Rogers, 24, was second at the Trials in a personal best of 1:57.66 and Ajee’ Wilson, 27, finished third that night in 1:58.39.
Rogers was the 2019 world championships silver medalist in the 800 meters and Tokyo is her first Olympics. She said her training for the Trials was “an uphill,” experiencing some mental challenges that she has overcome with faith and prayer. In 2020 she left Wilson’s training group in Philadelphia to join the Nike-affiliated group coached by Pete Julian in Portland, Oregon.
Wilson won the bronze medal at the 2019 world championships and she’s also the American 800-meter record holder (1:55.61). After placing third at the Trials to make her second Olympics, she indicated that her buildup had not gone according to plan with only six weeks of consistent training before the meet began. She declined to give specifics about why her preparation was disrupted, but said she’s now healthy.
“I feel like we’ve all had a crazy year, but [it was] unusually crazy for me,” Wilson said. “I’m just glad I was able to make this team. Super thankful, super relieved.”
The women’s 800 meters remains one of the most anticipated contests of the Games for track and field. The tactics, strategy, speed, and endurance, combined with the talent of the field always makes for some high drama and entertainment.
Here’s when to watch (all times are Eastern):
- 9:25 p.m. on July 29: first round
- 7:50 a.m. on July 31: semi-final
- 8:25 a.m. on August 3: final