Worlds Day 5 AM Recap: Athing Mu Runs & Wins Prelim; Richardson & Lyles Breeze in 200 Prelims

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Day 5 of the 2023 World Athletics Championships on Wednesday got underway with a morning session featuring the first round of the women’s 800, men’s 200, and women’s 200. The big news was that Athing Mu, whose coach Bobby Kersee said last month was considering skipping Worlds, did indeed run and won her 800-meter prelim. 100-meter champions Noah Lyles and Sha’Carri Richardson also easily qualified for Thursday’s semifinals in the 200. Quick recap of all three events below.

*Full results

Women’s 800: Mu shows up and wins

We had to wait a while for an answer to one of the biggest questions of the meet: would reigning world champion Athing Mu run the 800 in Budapest? The answer was yes as Mu, sporting custom bedazzled blue Nike spikes, advanced in the seventh and final heat. She went out very hard (27 seconds at 200 meters) and led most of the way before letting off the gas in the final 100. As a result, Jamaica’s Natoya Goule-Toppin wound up challenging her for the heat win and the chase pack closed in on Mu a little, but she responded well and won the heat in 1:59.59.

Mu held off Natoya Goule-Toppin to win her heat

Two of the other three Americans made it through to Friday’s semifinals as Nia Akins ran the fastest time of the day, 1:59.19, to win heat 5, and Olympic bronze medalist Raevyn Rogers ran 2:00.06 to finish 2nd in heat 2. The third-placer at USAs, Kaela Edwards, did not run well and faded to last place in heat 4 in 2:02.22.

No big names were eliminated, with 19-year-old Swiss athlete Audrey Werro (2022 world U20 silver, 2023 Euro U20 gold) the most notable non-qualifier, taking 6th in heat 3 (2:01.03).

Rogers was the only American to stop and talk in the mixed zone but we did hear from Brits Keely Hodgkinson and Jemma Reekie

Keely Hodgkinson is fit and excited to take on Athing Mu

Hodgkinson looked very comfortable once she moved to the front of her heat on the second lap and said that she is feeling in as good shape as the last two global championships, if not better. We were told Hodgkinson ripped one of her final workouts, a set of 300m reps with 70 seconds rest which she ran 39, 46, and 38 seconds. Hodgkinson has run her season’s best in the global final the last two years. If she does that again in Budapest, she will run 1:55 or faster and will be tough to beat.

As for Athing Mu, Hodgkinson said she didn’t know what to make of the news that Mu might not run in Budapest but was glad she is here.

“It was a little bit confusing,” Mu said. “We don’t know the full story of what’s going on with her but I’m glad to see she’s turned up. Hopefully she’s healthy…I’m sure she’ll have a good run and hopefully we’ll both be in the final and I look forward to it.”

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Jemma Reekie says the change to coach Jon Bigg has been a positive one

Reekie left former coach Andy Young in a well-publicized exit in March and has since begun training with Brighton-based Jon Bigg. Reekie said that she has enjoyed the switch. With Muir as a training partner, Reekie said she would train more like a 1500/5k runner because that is the way Muir trained. Now she said her training is more 800-focused.

Reekie came to Worlds on the strength of a 1:57.30 victory at the London Diamond League on July 23, her first Diamond League win since 2020 in Rome and just her second 800 win in her last 13 races. Reekie said the victory was a great way to enter Worlds.

“It was the first big race I’ve won in quite a while so I think it’s picked me up well for this one,” Reekie said.

Natoya Goule-Toppin still confident she can win her first medal at 32

Goule-Toppin has finished 6th, 8th, and 5th in the last three global finals but has yet to win a global medal at the age of 32. Many top 800 runners will start slowing down at that age, but Goule-Toppin is not, running 1:57 twice already this year. She noted that broke through late in her career, breaking 1:59 for the first time at age 27, and is taking inspiration from the women who have succeeded late in their career rather than those who hadn’t.

Goule-Toppin was surprised when she heard Mu might not run a few weeks ago. Her medal chances took a hit when Mu decided to run but Goule-Toppin doesn’t see it that way.

“I was like, why?” Goule-Toppin said, upon hearing Mu might not run. “She needs to go and run, come on…My medal chances are good whether Athing Mu’s there or not. Nobody’s name is on the medals.”

Mu didn’t stop in the mixed zone but said neither she nor Nike designed her bedazzled spikes

Women’s 200: Sha’Carri Richardson leads the way

There were no shocks in the first round of the women’s 200 as the majority of athletes (24/44) qualified for the semis, including all of the major stars. 100m champion Sha’Carri Richardson ran the fastest time of the day, 22.16, despite running into a 0.7 m/s headwind and shutting it down late. US champ Gabby Thomas looked much better than her last outing in Monaco, winning her heat in 22.26, while reigning champion Shericka Jackson also cruised by winning heat 3 in 22.51.

Men’s 200: Hughes breaks 20

As in the women’s 200, there were no major casualties in the men’s prelims either, though 24-year-old American Courtney Lindsey, running in his first career World Championships, narrowly avoided a colossal mistake in heat 5. After leading the race and looking set for an easy heat victory, Lindsey slowed way down and nearly got passed by the next three athletes (only the top three advanced automatically). In the end, Lindsey held on for second in his heat in 20.39, but a similar mistake in the semifinals will be punished.

Zharnel Hughes, the 28-year-old Brit who had never broken 20 seconds before this year, led all qualifiers with his 19.99 time in the first heat, followed by two-time silver medalist Kenny Bednarek (20.01) and two-time defending champ Noah Lyles (20.05). 

Noah Lyles said he couldn’t afford to celebrate his 100m title very much

Lyles said he went to bed at 1:30 a.m. the night he won the 100 – a relatively early bedtime for a new world champion, which would have been even earlier had Lyles not had to wait a while to get food that night. But Lyles knew he still had the 200 and 4×100 to come and said he will be doing plenty of celebrating after the season was over. Just not yet.

“I met up with a lot of the winners of the night before, and a lot of them were drunk,” Lyles said. “I was like, oh yeah, not everybody does two events.”

Erriyon Knighton after round 1

Knighton said he struggled to adjust to the time difference and was having trouble sleeping when he got to Budapest but that has subsided and he feels ready to go now. He also pointed to fatigue and racing shortly after USAs for his result on July 18 at the Gyulai Istvan meet in Hungary where he suffered his only 200m defeat of the year.

Joseph Fahnbulleh after running 20.42 into a big headwind

*Full results

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*Day 5 thread
*Athing’s spikes might cost her the gold

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