Olympic champion Athing Mu's hopes of defending title dashed after tumble at US trials, appeal denial


American runner Athing Mu entered Monday’s U.S. Olympic track and field trials with hopes that she would qualify for an opportunity to repeat as an Olympic champion.

But a surprising fall during the two-lap race brought those hopes to a screeching halt. Mu, who was a member of the gold-medal team in the 4×400 at the Tokyo Games, lost her footing after she got tangled in a pack of runners and stumbled to the ground.

The amount of ground that Mu lost due to the fall was ultimately too much for her to overcome, and she failed to catch up with the rest of the group of runners.

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Athing Mu Olympics

Athing Mu ahead of competing in the women’s 800-meter final during the U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field on June 24, 2024, in Eugene, Oregon. (Getty Images)

Mu was running in the third lane from the rail when she veered inside a little too close to fellow Tokyo Olympian Raevyn Rogers.

Mu’s coach, Bobby Kersee, confirmed that a protest was filed with USA Track and Field. The appeal was based on the premise that Mu was “impeded” by other runners.

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USA Track and Field officials reviewed footage of the race deep into the evening but ultimately decided to deny the appeal. Details surrounding the decision were not made public. Typically, protests are granted when there is clear evidence of a runner obstructing another runner. Incidental contact is considered part of normal racing.

Athing Mu runner

Athing Mu competes in the women’s 800-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials on June 24, 2024, in Eugene, Oregon. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Mu was in the third lane from the rail when she got close to fellow American middle-distance athlete and Olympian Raevyn Rogers. At one point, the two athlete’s feet appeared to get tangled, but Rogers managed to avoid falling to the ground completely.

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Kersee added that the 22-year-old Mu got spiked, suffered scrapes from the fall and also hurt her ankle.

He acknowledged the unforgiving nature of the U.S. system, which awards spots in the Olympics to the top three finishers at the trials but does not make exceptions for past performances or Olympic champions.

“I’ve coached it, I’ve preached it, I’ve watched it,” Kersee said. 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.”

USA Athing Mu

Athing Mu competes on Day Four of the U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field on June 24, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Other nations have contingency plans when it comes to the process for selecting athletes for the Olympics when situations similar to Mu’s arise. An athlete’s performance over the course of a season or their past Olympics or World Championship results are taken into consideration in certain cases.

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The U.S. does not currently have any type of safety net built into its selection process.

Mu will be eligible for the relay pool.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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