By Israel La Rue
The women’s 800-meter race Sunday at The Prefontaine Classic featured three national records, led by surprise entrant Athing Mu, who won in a U.S. and meet record of 1:54.97, the fastest time in the world this season.
Mu said she originally didn’t want to compete in another race after placing third at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
“Over the past two weeks I kind of got a little refreshed and just, like, rejuvenated and prepared to actually compete,” Mu said. “Just being here the whole entire time just felt so different than Budapest.”
Runner-up Keely Hodgkinson set a British record of 1:55.19, and third-place finisher Natoya Goule-Toppin ran 1:55.96 to set a Jamaican national record.
Because Mu ran the 800 only in Budapest and at the New York Grand Prix, she was entered as a global wild card and wasn’t able to take the Diamond League trophy home. The Diamond League championship went to Hodgkinson.
Mu won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics at age 19 and followed up in 2022 by winning the world championship at Hayward Field. This season, she did not compete often, and because she automatically qualified for worlds as a defending champion, she ran the 1,500 meters at the USATF Championships, finishing second.
She said Sunday’s performance allowed her to end in a better fashion than taking a bronze medal home from worlds and calling it a season.
“I think it’s always a great idea to end your season on a higher note than you leave it,” Mu said.
Hodgkinson got out to an early lead with Mu sticking right behind her 200 meters into the race. But once the bell rang, Mu picked up speed and tried to make her move with 300 meters left.
Hodgkinson held off Mu for as long as she could, but coming into the home stretch the two were neck and neck.
As the two came down the final 100 meters, Hodgkinson dug as deep as she could to hold on for the win but she couldn’t keep up with Mu, who pulled away in the final 30 meters.
In the final 100 meters, Hodgkinson said, she was thinking, “just keep pushing, using my arms … I thought I had a bit of something to come back, but she’s a really strong runner and she was on me the entire way.”
Mu had just enough in the tank to separate herself from Hodgkinson in those final meters of the race for her third 800 win of the season.
“I think it was just about being patient the whole time,” Mu said. “Obviously knowing that she has a good finish and so does the rest of the field, and so just making sure that I held it and just did it at the right time.”