Athing Mu ready for vacation after bronze medal, busy three years
BUDAPEST — Athing Mu is ready for a vacation.
Mu followed Olympic and world 800m titles the last two years with bronze on the last day of the world track and field championships on Sunday.
Afterward, she spoke for 11 minutes in her first media address since her coach, Bobby Kersee, was quoted saying two weeks before the meet that she might skip worlds.
“I’ve just been going through a lot,” Mu said when asked why she considered not defending her title. “Not just this year, but the past two years. There’s been no break for me.”
Mu referenced going from competing as a Texas A&M freshman in spring 2021 to turning professional before the Tokyo Olympics. Last year, at age 20, she became the youngest woman to pair a world title with an Olympic gold medal in any track and field event.
Then she moved from College Station to Los Angeles and changed coaches to Kersee.
“It’s a lot,” she said. “I don’t think any one athlete has really done all that in the past couple of years. So it’s a lot to handle, especially at a super young age.”
Mu paced Sunday’s final, then saw Kenyan Mary Moraa, last year’s bronze medalist, pass her in the final straightaway.
Brit Keely Hodgkinson also passed Mu to earn silver for a third consecutive year when including the Tokyo Olympics.
“I’m happy with the result,” Mu said. “I jumped to a whole new training group last year, I’m learning a whole lot. I’m doing different things than I’ve done my whole entire career. I’m super young. I’ve done a lot of great things starting at 19.”
Mu had won the 800m at nine consecutive outdoor meets dating to her last defeat in September 2019. She said she deleted her social media three weeks ago to “help me enjoy where I’m at a little more.”
“The world was already talking about me whether or not I was coming,” she said. “What is Bobby doing? What is Athing doing? Athing’s going to lose. All these things happening. For that reason, I deleted social media.”
Mu, an American record breaker at age 16 and world junior record breaker at 18 (both indoors), also acknowledged that external pressure is something she’ll have to deal with as long as she’s in the sport.
“Just because I got bronze today, that’s not going to take anything away from my resume. It’s not going to take anything away from what people expect of me or what they think about me,” she said. “This is a growing experience. I started off really well, super young. So, I mean, it’s always going to be on my plate no matter how far I go in the sport.”
She said she fought “to find the excitement this go-around.” She felt like she “had to win” worlds last year, coming off the Olympic title (despite a hip injury in the 2022 season). She worked to be more mellow this year, a feeling she exuded after placing an impressive second in the 1500m, a complementary event, at July’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.
In the end, she said she felt more ready to go home than to compete.
“This year wasn’t my favorite, but we’ll see what happens in the future,” she said. “Can finally enjoy the vacation. Stop thinking about track and field.”
The U.S. won the most gold medals (12) and total medals (29) at a fourth consecutive worlds. The U.S. more than doubled the next closest nation in both standings.
Also Sunday, the U.S. picked up its last gold from its men’s 4x400m relay, which distanced silver medalist France by 1.14 seconds.
Quincy Hall, Vernon Norwood, Justin Robinson and Rai Benjamin combined to clock 2:57.31. The Americans prevailed without 2022 World 400m champion Michael Norman, who ended his season rather than compete at worlds to refocus on the Olympic year.
Yaroslava Mahuchikh won the high jump to become the first Ukrainian to win a world outdoor track and field title in any event in 10 years.
“I have to win this gold for my country and all Ukrainian people who are still fighting for peace in Ukraine and for our independence,” she said, according to World Athletics. “Thanks to them we have this unique possibility to compete at the international arena and to raise our flag.”
Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen repeated as 5000m champion. Two years in a row, Ingebrigtsen took 1500m silver behind an Edinburgh Athletics Club member (Jake Wightman, Josh Kerr), then won the 5000m.
Next year, Ingebrigtsen could bid to become the third man to win the 1500m and 5000m at one Olympics after Finland’s Paavo Nurmi in 1924 and Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj in 2004.
Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who in Tokyo became the first athlete from India to win Olympic track and field gold, became the first athlete from India to win a world track and field title. Silver medalist Arshad Nadeem became the first athlete from Pakistan to win a track and field worlds medal.
The track and field season continues Thursday with a Diamond League meet in Zurich, featuring Noah Lyles in the 200m.
Peacock airs live coverage Thursday at 2 p.m. ET. CNBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app air highlights Saturday at noon.