By Maryanne Christiano-Misterra
It was a celebratory day for Trenton—and America.
Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, Athing Mu, 19, won the final of the women’s 800-meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Her winning time, 1 minute, 55:21 seconds set a new national record.
The win made Mu the first American woman to score a gold medal in that race in more than 50 years. In 1983, Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia set the world record of 1:55.21.
Mu stated that winning the gold medal was definitely a goal of hers. She knew it was possible, so she wasn’t super shocked.
It all lined up so neatly. On January 16, 2021, Mu competed in her first collegiate track meet as a Texas A&M true freshman. On June 12, 2021, she won the 400m National Title while anchoring the 4x400m Championship Relay Team, setting collegiate records in both events. Within two weeks, she signed as a professional athlete with Nike and ran a world-leading time of 1:56.07 in the 800m to take first place at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Five days prior to her win, Mu, who is a Christian, had quotes from The Bible on her Instagram page, “Your faith becomes real when you put it into action” Hebrews 11:6. And she added the words, “Chasing Gold.”
As the legend has it, before Mu left the United States to compete in the Olympics, she was in a department store and spotted a hair barrette with the word “Confident” on it. She purchased the item, and it became a lucky charm for her.
Born in Trenton, Mu is the daughter of South Sudanese immigrants. Her family came to American twenty years ago. Mu attends Texas A&M University where she studies kinesiology. Prior to turning pro, the middle-distance runner raced in college. As a college freshman, she set many track records, including the win for the NCAA 400-meter title. However, she chose to forge her college eligibility so she could go pro.
At 5’10” and 124 pounds, Athing Mu is not the only athlete in her family, which is made up of seven children. Her older brother, Malual ran track for Penn State University—also the half-mile, like Athing. Her father, Deng, was a boxer in his native South Sudan, and is now a commercial fisherman. He was also a runner.
Focusing primarily on her career, Athing hasn’t shared much about her personal life on public platforms or social media websites. Nevertheless, she has many people in her public and private life rooting for her success!
The Pride Of Trenton
Athing Mu certainly made her fellow Trentonians proud.
Robin Vaughn, West-Ward Councilwoman, City of Trenton, offered her congratulatory words: “Outstanding! Trentonians, Mayor, and City Council are super proud of Athing Mu. She is an extraordinary young lady and has represented her hometown, state, and country well on the world’s stage.”
Continuing, Vaughn shared a bit of Mu’s background. “She was educated in the Trenton Public School District. TCHS graduate with honors. Texas A&M University scholar-athlete and NCAA champion,” she said. “And now she is a U.S. Olympian gold medalist. We will continue to celebrate her achievements, follow and support her journey. She is forever a part of the fabric of the City of Trenton. I have nothing but cheers and all kinds of congratulations for Athing and our city!”
Mary Courtney, Trenton Central High School principal added,
“Athing is a shining example of what hard work, determination, and perseverance can accomplish. The staff and students of Trenton High rooted for her while she won the gold and we are proud of her success on the national stage.”
Crystal M. Feliciano, president of the Trenton-based Giayana Monae Genesis Foundation, Inc., sees Mu as a “beacon of hope for those who aspire for greatness.” Feliciano expressed,
“She has shown us all today that with dedication, strong will, and commitment, anything is possible! She has blessed the nation with her gift as well as her hometown Trenton, and for that, we are eternally grateful and proud.”
Trenton resident, William Osterman, offered his best wishes. “Congratulations to Athing on achieving gold in the Olympics. Trentonians near and far are extremely proud of her. Her spirit and determination are qualities to be admired and emulated and gives Trenton’s youth the knowledge that they too can go for the gold in whatever they put their mind to. Trenton Proud!”
In a statement on the day of Athing Mu’s win, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora wrote, “Trenton makes champions and the world got to see it today.” And on that evening, The Trenton Makes Bridge was lit up red, white, and blue to honor Athing Mu’s showstopping achievement.
Following her triumph on Tuesday, Mu stated that she intends to run both the 400- and 800-meter events and break the 800-world record.