In a close race, Athing Mu comes away with the expected win.

For the first time in his professional career, American runner Ating Mu looked like he might lose the 800 meters.

Mu usually dominates his races with a unique and effortless stride that features little arm movement and seemingly little energy. While his world-class rivals grunt and grimace, trying to keep pace, Mu is known for keeping a stoic face and moving gracefully as he creates a gap between himself and the field.

But that was not the case in Sunday night’s 800m final. Typically, Mu switches to another gear with 200 meters left in the race and leaves his rivals behind. But this evening, Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson was keeping pace.

The crowd at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., roared as Moo and Hodgkinson ran side by side over the final 100 meters. Moo overtook Hodgkinson at the finish line to win in 1 minute 56.30 seconds, beating Hodgkinson by just eight hundredths of a second. The third place was taken by Kenyan Mary Mora. Hodgkinson also finished behind Moo in last summer’s Olympic 800m final, setting a national record time of 1:55.88.

Hodgkinson and Mu hold national records, have won Olympic medals and now World Championship medals. They are the same age – 20 years old – and each other’s fiercest competitors in this event.

Hodgkinson said she was pleased with another silver, this one at the World Championships, but was somewhat bittersweet to be “so close” to gold.

Mu said he expected Hodgkinson to pull towards the finish line and that in the last 100 meters he felt but did not see Hodgkinson on the left side.

“I was just happy it was over,” he said. He said Sunday was a “rough day” and that he didn’t feel like he was in peak physical shape. “Luckily I took the gold and luckily I still had something in me to get over the line and finish strong,” he said.

It was one of the closest races he ever ran. In June, he faced a similarly tense race at the US Nationals when Aje Wilson unexpectedly challenged Moo to the finish line. Still, Mu said he didn’t feel like he ran any harder on Sunday than he would have in any other race.

“Most of the races I run, they’re not really close races with other people,” Mu said. “But I think that’s what any race is like if I’m running with someone who’s really competitive.”

Moo is the first American woman to win a world championship in the 800 meters. He joins Donavan Brazier as one of only two Americans to win a world title in the 800 meters.

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