On Sunday, August 29th, 2021, hundreds of people lined up to turn up and turn out for two-time gold medal winning Olympian, Athing Mu in a flawlessly executed welcome home celebration. Those in attendance included New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, and US Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman. Trenton welcomed Mu home like the true champion she is.
At 19 years old, the middle-distance runner broke the 1968 national record in the 800 meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and won another gold medal for the women’s 4 x 400 relay. The parade started at 1:00 pm at Central High School on 400 Chambers Street. Around 2:00 pm, the procession made its way to the front steps of the City, surrounded by well-wishers holding banners, waving flags, and snapping photos.
On the day of the parade, I wrestled with the decision of if I should attend or not. After working long strenuous hours during the week and raising a rambunctious toddler, I typically reserve Sunday as my rest day. Ultimately, I decided to mask up and walk to City Hall to join the festivities because I didn’t want to miss out on the special moment. How many cities can claim a two-time gold medal winner as their own? It was important for me to celebrate Athing’s accomplishments at the Olympics, with my city. Mu’s success represents infinite possibilities for a city that doesn’t get a lot of positive press coverage.
As a father, Mu’s “Welcome Home” parade was an opportunity for me to show my two-year-old daughter that she can be anything she wants to be, and that she doesn’t have to look any further than her own backyard for examples of excellence. Mu’s parents immigrated from Sudan to Trenton where Mu, the second youngest of seven children, was born and raised in the early 2000s. She graduated with honors from Trenton High School in 2020 before heading off to Texas A&M University to study Kinesiology. Turning pro her first year in college, she announced this past June that she signed a contract with Nike. While addressing the crowd at the parade, Mu said that she always knew that she wanted to become an Olympian. ”When people asked me what I wanted to do in the future and what my goals were, I said that I wanted to be an Olympian. I wanted to be a professional athlete, and I’m here now!”
As the MC acknowledged each group and individual who stopped in front of the makeshift stage, such as representatives from the Trenton Board of Education, the Boys and Girls Club, Trenton’s Track club, and Trenton’s Central High School ROTC, he reminded the crowd about the various extracurricular activities available in Trenton for kids to participate in that will help enrich their lives and keep them off of the streets.
Trenton is only eight miles, so the reverberations of our wins, as well as our losses, have a big impact within the community. One of the beautiful things about the parade in celebration of Athing Mu’s victory, was the visible diversity in Trenton. There are various ethnic groups, including young kids and senior citizens. It’s clear that Athing Mu made a choice to be the best version of herself and go after her dreams. “One thing I can say about Trenton, we may not be the shiniest city, you know we have our ups and downs, but when someone does something amazing, we all come together,” Mu said.