Athing Mu of the United States won the gold medal in the women’s 800-meter final on Tuesday at the Tokyo Olympics, her country’s first victory in the event in more than half a century, as her compatriot Raevyn Rogers grabbed bronze.
The absence of South Africa’s double champion Caster Semenya, ruled ineligible due to heightened testosterone levels, opened up the field to a new winner and the 19-year-old Mu took full advantage.
She dominated the race, leading almost from the start and crossing the line clear of her rivals in a time of 1:55.21, to secure the U.S. a second gold in the event after Madeline Manning’s triumph in 1968.
Keely Hodgkinson of Britain took silver.
Mu, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Sudan two decades ago, said it was “awesome” that she won gold at such a young age.
“I wasn’t really putting gold on that, but as it got closer to the final today, I was like, ‘Yeah, we want gold’,” she said.
Mu said getting ahead quickly was part of her strategy.
“I wanted to go early from the front and not let anyone mess up my race plan. I just wanted to do my own thing,” she said.
Mu’s time was an American national record.
“I knew it was pretty close but to do that again feels amazing,” she said.
Along with the bronze for Rogers, who posted a personal best of 1:56.81, the pair became the first U.S. medallists in the event since 1988.
Britain’s Hodgkinson ran a brilliant second half of the race to earn silver.
“That is absolutely mental,” she told the BBC when told she had just won an Olympic silver medal.
The 19-year old broke 2004 Olympic champion Kelly Holmes’s British national record with a time of 1:55.88.
“Kelly Holmes is a legend and I looked up to her. I have been speaking to her for the past couple of days and she is a lovely person,” Hodgkinson said.