Athing Mu, 19, could be next US middle-distance Olympic track star
America is void of a middle-distance female track and field star. Madeline Mims is the only American woman to win Olympic gold in the 800 meters. Mims accomplished the feat at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Athing Mu could be next.
Crossing the finish line in first place with an eye-popping time while her competitors battle for second place is becoming customary when Mu hits the track.
Mu shattered the collegiate record books in her freshman season at Texas A&M. Her collegiate record performances in the 400 meters (49.57) and 800 meters (1:57.73) are the No. 1 ranked times in the U.S. this year. She would’ve won the women’s 400 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials if she equaled her personal best. But the indoor and outdoor NCAA National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year decided before the trials she wanted to focus exclusively on the 800 meters.
“I never considered doubling,” Mu answered when asked why she didn’t want to run both the 400 and 800 meters. “It would’ve been fun to do. But being smart about training and where I am, I had a long collegiate season. Six rounds at the Olympic trials…it would be a lot of work and my legs it would be draining for me.”
Despite not running the 400 meters, Mu’s already had a busy week. The 19-year-old officially decided to forgo her remaining collegiate eligibility to go pro and signed a multi-year deal with Nike. She’s now poised to earn her first Olympic berth at the trials after breezing through the qualifying rounds with the top time of 1:59.31 entering the event final.
“This Olympic trials is pretty special, especially coming off a really great collegiate season. I’m trying to keep the momentum going from all I’ve done since January,” Mu said.
Mu’s momentum has led her to Sunday’s women’s 800 meter final where she will soon be able to write another compelling chapter to her superb track season. She is just two laps and a top-three finish away from earning a trip to Tokyo and accomplishing a lifelong dream.
“It would be a dream come true. Every time somebody asked me, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I’m always like I want to be a professional athlete and I want to be an Olympian. Those are two things I would say,” Mu said. “Now that it is actually here, it’s a reality. I’m competing at the trials, so it’s like ok it’s great. It’s exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’ve worked for this and I’m ready to compete and do anything that I have to do to get on the team.”
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Mu’s on the precipice of not only achieving her Olympic dream, but also becoming America’s next middle-distance star. During the preliminary rounds of the women’s 800 meters at the trials, NBC track and field analyst Ato Boldon called Mu the biggest prodigy since Allyson Felix.
The budding star, though, doesn’t let all the hype get to her head.
“I take everything what people say lightly. I don’t let it get to my head,” Mu said. “It’s awesome, but being a prodigy is I guess something that I always wanted to be.”