Athing Mu takes down women's 800m American record at Prefontaine Classic
The confident Athing Mu has returned.
After leaving the World Championships with a silver medal and surrounded by questions about her motivation, the 21-year-old silenced any doubts with a tactically-smart, gritty performance the ended with her crossing the finish line first with a new American record and the Diamond League title in the women's 800m in 1:54.97 at the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field.
It also saw her flash the smile of someone who has not lost her passion for competition.
Mu's winning time lowered the American record of 1:55.04 she set here in 2021.
“I'm just happy with how I felt out here, just completely," Mu said. "I felt really new and refreshed, and I’m just happy -- I wasn’t even hoping for the American Record, I was just hoping for a PR, but I knew I could do something fast if I could just relax and compete.”
Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain finished second in 1:55.19, lowering her British record of 1:55.77 set in Paris in June. Since Mu was competing on a wildcard entry, Hodgkinson took home the Diamond League trophy as a finale qualifier.
“I’m actually really proud of myself," Hodgkinson said. "I’m happy, a national record and a huge PB, so it’s a really good way to end the season.”
Natoya Goule-Toppin of Jamaica was third in 1:55.96, lowering the national record of 1:56.15 she set in Monaco in 2018.
None of those record-setting times appeared destined to happen when American pacer Kaylin Whitney stepped off the track in 55.90. That left Hodgkinson, who entered the meet with the fastest time in the world this season at 1:55.77, in control.
At the bell, Mu pulled up to the Brit's outside shoulder with world champion Mary Moraa of Kenya and Goule-Toppin towed behind.
In a replay of last year's World Championships final on this track, Mu and Hodgkinson ramped up the pace and battled around the curve. Moraa was unable to keep pace and quickly drifted back.
As the duo battled down the final straight it was Mu once again who proved stronger and pulled away by a slightly larger margin than last year's decisive lean at the tape.
“Of course we’re gonna have great competition, but I think it goes deep down to me and what I’m doing and what effort I put out there," Mu said. "So I just wanted to make sure I just did my best to compete with the best, and put as much effort as they were putting out there so I could get the results that I wanted.”
Mu was downright jubilant after the finish, which was a far different expression of emotion than she exhibited in Budapest, where she lost her World title to Moraa. After that race last month, she spoke of the stresses endured and learnings necessitated by her switching coaches to Bobby Kersee and move to Los Angeles from here previous training base in College Station, Texas.
“Besides thinking about the competition, I really was just thinking about my own self and what I could do," Mu said. "I wanted to make sure that I ran to the best of my abilities and actually put effort out there, because the last few races that wasn’t the case.”