American Athing Mu wins gold in women’s 800-meter race at Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO – Kobe Bryant coined the term “Mamba Mentality.” In track and field, “Medal Mentality” seems like more of an appropriate term. It’s a phrase Athing Mu said she thought of at the Tokyo Olympics. Following her performance in the women’s 800 meters, she might want to get it trademarked.

The 19-year-old prodigy led for the entire race and won in 1:55.21 to set an American record.

“Coming here, I came with a medal mentality,” Mu said. “I came here wanting a medal.”

Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain ran in 1:55.88 to place second, and American Raevyn Rogers rounded out the top three, finishing in 1:56.81.

Yet, the race was never in doubt.

On the biggest stage of her track career, Mu was cool and calm during two laps around the track at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium – which is fitting because that’s exactly her personality.

Gold medalist Athing Mu reacts after the women's 800m final.

Mu’s demeanor after winning the gold medal was measured. The middle-distance runner expected to win the race. She even had a barrette in her hair that she purchased from Nordstrom that displayed the words “confident.”

“I’m feeling awesome. I’m satisfied with it. I’m glad I came out here and did what I had to do, to accomplish my goal. It was definitely a goal of mine to be a gold medalist,” Mu said. “I knew it was possible, so I’m not super shook or shocked or anything. I’m just happy I been running the same way as I been running the whole year.”

Mu’s Olympic gold is the crowning achievement in what was a breakout, record-setting track season for the product of Trenton, New Jersey. She broke the collegiate 400- and 800-meter records as a freshman at Texas A&M, turned pro at U.S. trials and won the 800 meters and followed that up with a dominant gold-medal performance at the Tokyo Olympics.

The middle-distance runner’s latest achievement placed her in exclusive company. Mu joined Madeline Manning-Mims as the only American women to win Olympic gold in the 800 meters. Manning-Mims accomplished the feat 53 years ago at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Despite her calm and chill personality, her teammates marvel at her ability.

“She’s incredible. She has so much grace, so much poise and so much composure at such a young age,” U.S. sprinter Gabby Thomas said. “She’s an inspiration to me.”

Mu’s Olympic teammates have gotten to know her in Tokyo. But the casual sports fan might not know much about her, even after cruising to an Olympic gold medal. When ask what she wants people to know about her, Mu replied with an answer that perfectly personifies her confident self. She want’s people to get to know her because her time is now.

“This isn’t the last time you’re gonna see me run. This is just the beginning. There is more,” Mu said. “One thing I will say for those people who are watching me for the first time, even for people who have been watching me for the last couple years, my time is now,” Mu said. “Six years from now, two years from now, it’s gonna be my time. I’m gonna do whatever I can in my time no matter what age I am. … I’m gonna do whatever I can to be great.”

The 800-meter world record of 1:53.28 held by Russian Jarmila Kratochvílová that’s stood since 1983 might be broken in Mu’s time.

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