Before Athing Mu introduced herself to the world at the Tokyo Games, the public-address announcer at Olympic Stadium butchered her name.
It was Friday, before her opening round heat of the women’s 800 metres, and Mu did not hide her dismay.
“I’m sure everyone saw my face,” said Mu, a 19-year-old American whose name is pronounced “Ah-THING Moe.”
“I don’t even know what he said, but it was terrible. Like, where do you even get that from?”
Mu said all this with a charming, disarming smile – she was used to people getting her name wrong, she said, but it also seemed clear that she wanted some respect. So she went out and made sure to earn it as an Olympic gold medallist.
On Tuesday, Mu became the first American to win gold in her event since 1968, the latest and greatest milestone for one of the sport’s rising stars.
Mu, who is from Trenton, N.J., finished in 1 minute 55.21 seconds, her personal best and an American record. Her strategy from the start was clear: Go to the front and stay there. Her commanding pace turned the race into a coronation.
Keely Hodgkinson of Britain was second, and Raevyn Rogers, Mu’s American teammate, finished third for the bronze.
Mu arrived in Tokyo a few weeks after she completed a historic freshman year at Texas A&M, where she broke a host of collegiate records and won the NCAA title in the 400. At the end of June, she announced she was going pro and signed with Nike.
She proceeded to dominate the 800 metres at the U.S. trials, winning a spot in Tokyo by running the fastest time in the world this year. The fastest time, that is, until today.
And while Mu acknowledged that becoming an Olympic gold medallist was “insane,” she knew it was not some far-flung dream. She expected it to happen.
“I knew this was where I was supposed to be at this point in time,” she said. “As long as my mind was right, I was going to accomplish my goals.”
The IOC said it was waiting for a report from the Belarusian National Olympic Committee on the case of sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya. Tsimanouskaya, 24, had been due to compete in the women’s 200-metre heats on Monday but said that on Sunday she was taken out of her room in the athletes’ village and driven to the airport to board a flight home. The IOC also said it had asked the Chinese team for a report on why two of its medallists appeared on the podium wearing badges featuring the head of the country’s former leader Mao Zedong.
AUSSIES BEHAVING BADLY
The Australian Olympic team says some of its athletes were responsible for “unacceptable behaviour” on a Japan Airlines flight to Sydney last Friday. Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll says rugby and soccer officials “have told me that such behaviour is certainly not acceptable within their sports.” Australian teams in men’s soccer and men’s and women’s rugby all failed to win medals. The women’s soccer team is still in Japan and will play the United States for bronze.
COWS AND MEATBALLS
Five cows, a meatball restaurant, and a new house. Those are just some of the prizes promised to Indonesian badminton gold medallists Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu when they return home from Tokyo. Southeast Asia’s biggest country is badminton-crazy, and the sport has produced all of its golds since being added to the Olympic program in 1992.
– New York Times News Service, Reuters, the Associated Press