Athing Mu aims to keep unbeaten streak alive in World Track and Field Championships debut

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Two-time Olympic gold medalist Athing Mu looks to keep her unbeaten streak alive when she makes her World Track & Field Championships debut this week in Eugene, Oregon. The New Jersey native not only arrives as the reigning Olympic champ in the 800m but also as the U.S. record-holder, and the 20-year-old Mu says she’s just getting started.

“In the years to come … I would love to get way faster, way stronger and just way better,” Mu recently told NBC Sports. “I would love to eventually have a world record under my belt. I would love to run a 400 and 800 double and win gold in both of those in a world championship, or just world event, eventually.

“But, right now I’m just thinking about being consistent. I’m hoping to continue to win golds and continue to go faster and to break barriers.”

Since turning professional ahead of U.S. Olympic Trials in June 2021, Mu has won 19 consecutive races in four different events, including heats, semifinals and finals in the 400m, 600m, mile and 4x400m relay. In Tokyo last August, Mu set a new American record in the 800m with a time of 1:55.21, ending a 53-year win drought for Team USA that dated back to Madeline Manning at the 1968 Olympics. Just two weeks later, Mu bettered her time with a 1:55.04 at the 2021 Prefontaine Classic.

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Mu has posted the two fastest 800m times in the world this year: 1:57.01 at Rome Diamond League and 1:57.16 in the final at nationals. But Mu faced her first real challenge in the distance from veteran Ajee’ Wilson just last month in Eugene. Wilson nearly passed Mu about 50m from the finish line when Mu retook the lead to win by .07 seconds.

“It was a race,” Mu said afterward. “I just kept on running, kept on fighting. I wanted to win. … I definitely love being pushed. I’m happy I reacted the way I did.”

Along with a world championships title, Mu has her eyes set on breaking the world record of 1:53.28, which was set in 1983 by Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova and remains the oldest-standing individual world record in athletics.

“All that matters is that you go out there and you go get whatever you believe that you can go get,” said Mu regarding her efforts to turn her career into a legacy. “Always be a go-getter and never worry about what you’re up against because, in the end, it really doesn’t matter about anyone else. It’s all about your own personal experience and your own personal journey and as long as you go out there and get after it every single time you hit the track, and are never afraid, I believe that you can do anything.”

But Mu will have to contend with Wilson again in Eugene, where she’s also likely to face Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson. The 20-year-old Hodgkinson, who took silver in Tokyo, has a season-best of 1:57.71, but the two have yet to run head-to-head this year. The women were expected to race at the Prefontaine Classic in May, but Mu withdrew citing a bout with COVID-19.

Competition for the women’s 800m begins Thursday, July 21, with heats, followed by semifinals on Friday, July 22, and the final on Sunday, July 24.

Current women’s 800m records:

  • World record: Jarmila Kratochvilova, Czechoslovakia, 1 minute, 53.28 seconds, 1983
  • World Athletics Championships record: Jarmila Kratochvilova, Czechoslovakia, 1 minute, 54.68 seconds, 1983
  • Hayward Field record: Athing Mu, United States, 1 minute, 55.04 seconds, 2021