One 19-year-old beat another 19-year-old to end a 53-year drought.
Athing Mu won the gold medal and broke the American record in the 800-meter with a time of 1:55:21, becoming the first U.S. champion in this event since Madeline Manning won in 1968. The silver medalist was another teenage star, Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain.
“I just wanted to be a medalist,” Mu told reporters after the final. “I wasn’t really putting gold on that, but as it got closer to the final today, I was like, ‘Yeah, we want gold.’”
Mu races like she interviews: confidently. Known for running in front, she led the race from the start, striding smoothly through the 400-meter mark with ease. The rest of the pack trailed closely behind, but Mu maintained control through the back stretch, gradually picked up speed around the final turn and secured the win.
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Mu’s parents immigrated to the United States from Sudan just before she was born. Her family watched her race from her hometown of Trenton, NJ, bursting with pride.
Fellow American and first-time Olympian Raevyn Rogers also found a spot on the podium. The 24-year-old raced the best way she knows: from the back.
Unlike Mu, Rogers sat behind the lead group for the first 600 meters and charged around the final turn. She was in seventh place midway down the final straightaway but surged past the rest of the field to win bronze.
“Just being out there and being able to medal, it’s a really big deal,” Rogers said. “I think it’s settling in. Just being able to take something back home, I’m really proud.”
American Olympic champions in women’s distance events are few and far between, which makes this gold medal for Mu even more historic. The list of female American champions in events 800 meters or longer is quite short: Manning (800 meters, 1968) and Joan Benoit (marathon, 1984). Mu is also the youngest American woman to win an individual Olympic track and field gold medal since Wyomia Tyus in the 100-meter at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
During the Olympics, you can also catch up on all of the major storylines in women’s sports by watching “On Her Turf @ The Olympics,” a 30-minute show that will stream for free on Peacock. Hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, MJ Acosta-Ruiz, and Lolo Jones, the show kicks off on Saturday, July 24, and will stream every day of the Games (Monday-Saturday at 7pm ET and Sundays at 6pm ET).