Why Mu has a thing to prove at America’s ‘mini Olympics’

Olympics 800m champion Athing Mu from the United States. Photo: Imago

Why Mu has a thing to prove at America’s ‘mini Olympics’

Joel Omotto 15:15 - 21.06.2024

The Olympics champion has not been seen since the 2023 Prefontaine Classic but has a chance to allay any fears during the week-long US Olympics trials as she bids to defend her title.

Olympics 800m champion Athing Mu heads into the US trials as one of the athletes under pressure to deliver after a series of injuries delayed her 2024 season.

Mu has not run since winning the Diamond League Trophy at the 2023 season finale at Prefontaine Classic and the Olympics trials will be her first competitive event this year.

Nine months without competition can be a long time but the 22-year-old can erase any doubts about her form and shape with a good performance in Oregon, with the 800m first round scheduled on Friday night.

Since announcing her arrival in grand style by winning the NCAA 400m title for Texas A&M in a collegiate record of 49.57 four days after her 19th birthday in 2021, Mu enjoyed a meteoric rise as she won the Olympics title in Tokyo two months later.

Mu would add the 2022 world title to her collection to assert her authority as the new 800m queen.

However, in the last one year, she has not been in great form, failing to defend her title when she managed bronze medal behind Briton Keely Hodgkinson, who claimed silver, and Kenya’s Mary Moraa, who won gold, at the 2023 World Championships.

There were doubts about her participation at the 2023 Worlds with reports that she was considering skipping it to focus on her Olympics defence, as a career in modelling also looked promising, but she had a change of mind and ran in Budapest.

After her third place in Hungary, Mu got her revenge against her rivals when she claimed the Prefontaine Classic in a a personal best, world-leading and American record time of 1:54.97.

She went quiet since then and her comeback this year has been held back on three occasions.

Mu withdrew from the Prefontaine Classic last month due to soreness in her hamstring, this coming after pulling out of the Oxy Invitational in early May in Los Angeles, then the Los Angeles Grand Prix the same month.

“She’s a veteran, if she’s healthy, she can make the team. And so, if I injure her before, I’m gonna be called a fool; if I don’t race her before, I’m gonna get [criticism],” Mu’s coach Bobby Kersee said on why he has had to manage her carefully.

“So I have to do the math that’s going to put her on the team, and so whatever that math is between now and the 21st [June 21 when Olympics trials start], that’s what I’m gonna do.”

There is hope that Kersee has done his calculations well since this is the only chance for the athlete to defend her title and she remains America’s biggest medal prospect in the 800m.

With an Olympics qualifying time already in the bag, the New Jersey-born runner can now focus on being among the top three who will seal a ticket to Paris and a good performance will also go along way in silencing her doubters.

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