Athing Mu gets gold and Keely Hodgkinson secures silver in the 800m at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
When Athing Mu saw Keely Hodgkinson cut inside and edge ahead of her in the women’s 800m at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, the US athlete's competitive instincts kicked into their highest gear.
Mu, who says she is “competitive in everything” — even racing her boyfriend to see who can get ready for practice the fastest — kept her unbeaten streak alive with a furious finish on Sunday (24).
She ran a world-leading 1:56.30 to win her 22nd straight race as a professional and capture the first World Championships gold medal for the US in the women’s 800m. Mu, who was emotional at the finish, has not lost an outdoor race since September 2019 and her streak includes heats and finals at various distances.
Hodgkinson clocked a season's best 1:56.38 to win Great Britain’s first silver medal in the event since Kelly Holmes' in 2003. Mary Moraa captured the bronze for Kenya’s first medal since 2015 with a PB of 1:56.71.
“I love competing against other fast women,” Mu said. “I really just wanted to be consistent this year and to continue with the wins that I have been having. Today, it was a little bit harder for me, but I wanted to make sure that when I came on the track, I just do my best.”
The race between the top two finishers was a rematch of the Olympic final, when both were teenagers. They have since turned 20 and this was their first head-to-head competition of the year since a bout with Covid forced Mu to withdraw from the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in May.
Mu became the youngest woman in history to own both Olympic and world titles in an individual athletics event. Only Kirani James of Grenada, who won the 400m in 2011 and 2012, was younger, and he added another silver medal in Eugene.
While Mu thrives as a front-runner, she could not take immediate control of the race. Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji held the lead at 200m, followed by Hodgkinson and then Mu. Welteji was still out front at the bell, with a time of 57.09, with Mu 0.07 behind and looking comfortable. Mu made her move on the back stretch and Hodgkinson went with her, with Moraa just behind.
Mu held the lead rounding the turn, but Hodgkinson found a gap inside and they were shoulder-to-shoulder with 100m to go. For a moment, Hodgkinson had the lead.
“I thought I could get her in the last 100,” said the British record-holder, who lost to Mu by 0.67 in Tokyo last year. “I gave it everything. I’m a bit gutted because I was so close. But it is what is. We’ve got World Champs next year, so we’ll go again.”
All three medallists ran faster than Mu’s previous world-leading time of 1:57.01, while Welteji placed fourth with a PB of 1:57.02.
Moraa, who trains in the same camp as 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon, fought to pass Welteji and then knelt on the track covered by her nation’s flag. “This is a very special achievement for me and my village,” said Moraa. “The race was tough, but I tried to push myself to finish like this.”
The US had three finalists, including two podium finishers from 2019. Doha silver medallist and Olympic bronze medallist Raevyn Rogers, whose image is on the Hayward Field tower as a University of Oregon standout, placed sixth in 1:58.26 and Ajee Wilson, the world indoor champion and the two-time world bronze medallist, faded to eighth in 2:00.19.
US athletes had reached the podium six times before at the World Championships, but never the top step.
With 1968 Olympic gold medallist Madeline Manning Mims cheering from the stands, Mu finally accomplished that goal.
However, she said she didn’t quite feel like herself. “I just physically wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Mu said. “I just didn’t feel my best, and so I knew it was going to be a little tough. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t leave anything out on the track and what was going to happen today was going to happen, and I just wanted to make sure I did my best, run how I usually run and thankfully I got the gold.”
Mu’s boyfriend, US team-member Brandon Miller, did not get out of the heats in the men’s 800m.
She said after the first round that Miller, with whom she will celebrate a one-year anniversary next month, “just tells me to be me. ‘Do your thing, just have fun out there.’”
Being the Olympic gold medallist, she said, is “not something I think about every day. So whenever I do hear it, it’s like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s fun! I am!’”
Now she has double the fun.
And Hodgkinson, who is preparing herself mentally for the Commonwealth Games, has to wait for a rematch.
“This time, I ran for the gold,” Hodgkinson said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. But I’m proud of myself for going out there and giving myself that chance. I believed in myself. She’s a great athlete. We’ve got many, many years ahead of us.”
Karen Rosen for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S 800m MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Athing Mu 🇺🇸 USA||1:56.30 WL|
|🥈||Keely Hodgkinson 🇬🇧 GBR||1:56.38 SB|
|🥉||Mary Moraa 🇰🇪 KEN||1:56.71 PB|