Athing Mu’s hopes of defending her Olympic 800m title end after falling at the US trials

Athing Mu’s hopes of defending her 800-meter title at the Paris Olympics ended in heartbreaking fashion on Monday as she fell to the floor at the US track and field trials.

The 22-year-old Mu was clipped in a pack of runners about 200 meters into the race, dramatically ending her chances of winning back-to-back Olympic titles in the 800m.

She got back to her feet and finished the race but had too much ground to make up, finishing 22 seconds off the front.

The trio of Nia Atkins, who won in a time of 1:57.36, Allie Wilson, and Juliette Whittaker completed the podium to make the Olympic team.

Mu’s fall underlined the sometimes brutal nature of the US Olympic trials, which dictate that only the top three finishers will make the team for an individual event, regardless of an athlete’s pedigree and past results.

“I’ve coached it, I’ve preached it, I’ve watched it,” Mu’s coach, Bobby Kersee, told Associated Press about the tradition of picking the top three athletes at the trials.

“And here’s another indication that regardless of how good we are, we can leave some better athletes home than other countries have. It’s part of our American way.”

Mu was able to finish the race after her fall. - Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
Mu was able to finish the race after her fall. - Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

According to AP, Kersee lodged a protest after the race, claiming that Mu had been spiked by an athlete behind her. On Tuesday, a USA Track and Field spokesperson told CNN that the protest was denied.

Mu, who hadn’t competed for nine months prior to the trials at Eugene’s Hayward Field, could still make the US Olympic team for Paris in the 4x400m relay, an event in which she also won gold at the Tokyo Games.

Despite her lack of races due to a lingering hamstring issue, Mu appeared in good shape at the trials, winning her semifinal in a time of 1:58.84.

“It’s tough to see, especially for someone like Athing who you know could win a gold medal,” 400m hurdler Rai Benjamin told NBC.

“You feel for her because she’s supposed to be there. But that’s just USA Track and Field. It’s the hardest team to make and anything can happen here.”

Elsewhere, 16-year-old Quincy Wilson came up short in his attempt to become the youngest man ever to make the US Olympic track team, finishing sixth in the 400m.

Wilson ran an under-18 world record of 44.59 seconds in the semifinals on Sunday, two days after he initially broke the record with a time of 44.66.

He was 0.77 seconds outside of Quincy Hall’s winning time of 44.17 in the final, while Michael Norman and Chris Bailey completed the top three.

The Bullis School sophomore, like Mu, could still make the US team for the 4x400m relay.

“I don’t know if my season’s over yet,” Wilson told reporters on Monday. “I don’t want to go out and go eat some ice cream too soon. You never know, I could be getting that call and have to regroup.”

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