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Athing Mu is used to pressure — and hearing her name mispronounced

Athing Mu wins a heat in the women's 800 meters at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
(Martin Meissner / Associated Press)

As she stood on the track and prepared for the start of her heat in the women’s 800 meters Friday, Athing Mu winced.

Once again, a public address announcer badly mispronounced her name.

“I’m sure everyone saw my face,” Mu said after winning in 2 minutes, 01.10 seconds at Olympic Stadium. “I don’t even know what he said. Like ‘Moo.’ I don’t even know, but it was terrible.”

Mu, 19, took it in stride but she said it was a common occurrence.

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“Since the day I started running,” she said. “It hasn’t stopped.”

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By the end of these Games, the world could know her name, which she said was phonetically pronounced, “uh-thing-moe.”

The New Jersey native, the daughter of South Sudanese parents, is regarded as a favorite to win the United States’ first gold medal in the 800 meters since 1968.

After competing at Texas A&M for one year and winning the 400-meters title, Mu recently turned pro. She qualified for the Games in the 800 by running a world-leading 1:56.07 at the Olympic trials.

“Of course there’s pressure,” she said. “But I’m just going about my rounds. Literally, anything can happen. I’m just here competing, doing all I can to be the best on the day that I need to be, and if all goes well, all goes well.

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“If, God forbid, something happens, we just move on. We go onto the next one.”

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With the victory Friday, Mu advanced to Saturday’s semifinals.

Does it bother her that people mispronounce her name?

“I think I’ve learned, like, no matter how many times you say something, there’s always going to be someone that’s going to mess it up,” she said. “Like, you can’t tell every single person, ‘This is how you say it. This is how you say it,’ because they’re not going to remember.

“So, I mean, that right there, that was terrible. That was like, I don’t know how you can butcher my name so bad.”

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By the end of these Games, will everyone know how to pronounce her name?

“No,” she said, laughing, “They should, but no.”


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