Game sam mu rai game vui

“Oh my, God, I’m sure everyone saw my face,” Athing Mu said of the stadium announcer mispronouncing her name. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

TOKYO — As clouds gathered Friday morning over Olympic Stadium, two U.S. Track athletes made their Games debut. In qualifying heats, the suave hurdling of Rai Benjamin and graceful nguồn of Athing Mu — who cruised khổng lồ a victory after the public address botched the pronunciation of her name — indicated their presence will make the Olympics a richer event both this week và for years to lớn come.

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Their performances, and what they promise khổng lồ deliver in coming days, was offset by the another defining factor of the U.S. Team: those who are not here. On Thursday afternoon, American pole vault record holder Sam Kendricks tested positive for coronavirus, knocking the medal contender out of the Games. Friday afternoon, the fastest women in the world ran qualifying heats, except for the one not back in America. U.S. Star Sha’Carri Richardson remained home, banished because of a positive marijuana test, her absence hovering over the women’s 100 meters qualifying heats.

The first day of track and field included some of the best athletes on the planet, a class Mu is rapidly joining. A 19-year-old of South Sudanese heritage from New Jersey, Mu spent her teens breaking every record in her, destroyed NCAA competition for one year at Texas A&M and, one week after turning pro, did the same in the 800 meters final at the U.S. Olympic trials.

Mu owns the fastest time in the world this year, & after she breezed to a victory in her heat at 2 minutes, 1.1 seconds, she acknowledged the obvious: Both a gold medal and teammate Ajee Wilson’s American record are on the table for her in Tokyo.

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So maybe, just maybe, we can all start pronouncing her name properly? It sounds lượt thích Ah-thing Mo. As Mu took her starting place in Lane 2 và the camera focused on her, the Olympic Stadium announcer bellowed, “You-thing Ma!” Mu smirked & titled her head.

“Oh my, God, I’m sure everyone saw my face,” Mu said. “I don’t even know what he said,” Mu said. “I don’t even know. But it was terrible. Like, where bởi vì you even get that from?”

It was not a new indignity for Mu. “Since the day I started running,” she said. Despite the vivid chance she has to kết thúc the Games with perhaps two gold medals around her neck, she does not expect everyone lớn get her name correct.

“There’s always going to lớn be someone who’s going lớn mess it up,” Mu added. “That right there, though? That was terrible. That was like, I don’t know how you can butcher my name so bad.”

Mu ran a race that showed why everyone will at least have khổng lồ know who she is. She made the most arduous race in track seem easy. She easily mix the pace on the first lap. Ethiopian Habitam Alemu took the lead briefly on backstretch. Mu decided she would prefer to win, & so she passed her without breaking strike & crossed the line first.

Mu endured a long college season before the trials và training for the Games, but she said she feels “amazing.” She may need the stamina. Mu helped mix an NCAA record in the 4x400 for Texas A&M in June. She was asked Friday if she had discussed running for the heavily favored U.S. 4x400 relay team.

“Not officially,” Mu said, breaking into a huge grin that suggested maybe there had been unofficial discussion. “But that’s not until next week so, just waiting on it.”

Benjamin, 24, is just as spectacular as Mu, but his path to a gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles will be both tougher and more thrilling. His showdown with Norway’s Karsten Warholm is one of the stories of the Olympics. Days after Benjamin missed breaking Kevin Young’s world record by five-hundredths of a second at the U.S. Trials, Warholm reset it to lớn 46.70 seconds. World records at the Olympics are often fantasies. For Warholm và Benjamin, it will be the barrier of entry for a gold medal.

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For now, the record remains an unspoken aim for Benjamin. Want khổng lồ know how good he is? Still approaching fame in the U.S., Benjamin has apparently become a rival worth scorning in Scandinavia.

“I’m really trying khổng lồ avoid that question, because the Norweigian truyền thông has been butchering me about that," Benjamin said. "They say I talk about it too much. But if it takes it, it takes it. I’m here lớn win a gold for Team USA. I don’t even care if it’s a world record or not. I’m just here to win gold for my team và myself.”

They will circle each other until Tuesday night’s final, when they will race for the first time since 2019. Their opening salvos came Friday morning, with Warholm winning his heat in 48.7 seconds & Benjamin taking his in 48.61.

The women’s 100 meters, with stars such as Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith & Jamaican Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, remains one of the main attractions at Olympic Stadium. It did nothing lớn detract from its anticipation in the opening heats, with Marie Josse Ta Lou of Ivory Coast running 10.78 to lead the way và five others ran faster than 11 seconds, including Jamaican favorites Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce & Elaine Thompson-Herah, each while coasting into the finish.

For Americans, the race may be defined by absence. Richardson would have graced the Olympics for the first time, with her effervescent swagger and a hair color chosen precisely for the moment. Richardson remained home, left off the team after a positive chạy thử for marijuana at the invalidated her results at the U.S. Olympic trials.

The first morning also included the tiny moments that redeem the Olympics, even a Games as fraught as these. American steeplechase runner Benard Keter entered his semifinal hopeful of qualifying for Monday’s final, which would require him placing in the đứng đầu three of his heat or running one of the six fastest times outside of those finishers.

“My goal was just lượt thích everybody else,” Keter said. “But I kind of went crazy. I got a personal best.”

Keter finished in 8:17.3, fifth in the second of three heats. He had seen Ethiopia’s Lemach Girma và Japan’s Ryuji Miura set a blistering pace in the first race, finishing in less than 8:10. Keter, 29, was at his first Olympics, & he didn’t know whether they would end before noon on his day of competition. After his race, he had the sixth-fastest time of a nonautomatic qualifier.

At the finishing line, as he looked around, he saw runners splayed và writhing on the ground. As he wondered whether he would race again at the Olympics và recovered from the strain of his personal best, Keter ambled over lớn then. He hoisted Sebastian Maritos of Spain, Yemane Haileselassie of Ethiopia & Zak Seddon of Britain.

“I’m trying to be a sportsman,” Keter said. “We are leaders first. Before we take of ourselves, we have to lớn take of others. Helping someone, you only need a little strength. You have to lớn use it to help someone.”

Underneath the stands, Keter leaned on a guardrail & watched the final heat. He saw Hilary Bor, his training partner, fall from third place to lớn sixth in the final 30 meters. Keter, who went to high school in Kenya, is a thành viên of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. He feels a kinship khổng lồ Kendricks, who is a first lieutenant in the Army Reserve.

“I’m sorry for Sam Kendricks,” Keter said. “Being a member of the U.S. Army team, him và I, we were the two athletes from the U.S. Team lớn represent the Army. So I thought I was going lớn step up & be a leader. I’m praying so hard I get through khổng lồ the finals, so I can send Team Army and Team USA to lớn the finals.”

Watching the monitor, Keter saw the time of the winner pop-up: 8:19. Someone walked over lớn him và suggested he had made the final.