The best day for New Jersey sports in 2021 was August 3rd, and it wasn’t particularly close. This is partly due to so many state teams having an offseason, to say the least, as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the game we love.
But August 3, 2021 will be a great day for sports in New Jersey. Any Thanks to what these two proud athletes, Jersey, have accomplished on opposite sides of the world. Until that day, no New Jersey woman had won an individual Olympic gold medal in track and field.
At that point, we were two.
Athing Mu and Sidney McLaughlin will be forever linked for their personal and joint achievements at the Tokyo Olympics. Their excellence, poise and grace have brought back home the same amount of joy and pride that we needed at a time of pandemic.
They are our selection of the New Jersey Sportspersons of the Year, an award intended to recognize athletes from New Jersey or on a New Jersey team who have made the highest level of impact in sport during a calendar year.
Mu, a 19-year-old from Trenton, became the first American woman in 53 years to win gold in the 800 meters in the fastest time in the United States. 14 hours later, her 22-year-old McLaughlin from Danellen broke her own world record in the 400m hurdles to win gold, overtaking her fierce rivals on her biggest stage. .
They weren’t finished either. Four days later, they teamed up with track and field legend Allyson Felix and hurdler Dali Ramhammad to win gold in his relay 4×400 meters. McLaughlin ran his first leg with his 49.96 to give the American an unyielding lead. Mu fixed the relay and she stretched with her blazing 48.34 as she reached home.
Winning the relay was one of Team USA’s iconic moments in Tokyo. Felix clinched his 11th medal as the all-time medal-winning U.S. track and field athlete, overtaking another of his legends from New Jersey, Carl Lewis.
McLaughlin and Mu took different paths to success. The former is one of the most awarded New Jersey high school athletes in Union Catholicism, and Gatorade’s Athlete of the Year, which he has won twice, seems destined for stardom. It looked like The latter was never competitive at Trenton Central High and burst onto the scene last spring during Texas A&M University’s dominant college season.
But when they returned to New Jersey, they both received a heroic welcome. At the October ceremony, she had a Union Catholic truck named after her.
“It was my childhood dream to win a gold medal, but to be able to be a part of what I worked for means so much to the people around me,” McLaughlin said that day. “I am grateful to be able to provide them with that opportunity.”
Best place? Both are just beginning their truck careers. If they brought home his four gold medals from Tokyo, imagine what they could achieve when they hit their athletic prime just in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I said this in 2019, ‘My time is now,'” Mu said from Tokyo. Even if I do, I will do whatever I can in my time.
Previous NJ Sportsperson of the Year
2016: Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez
2017: NASCAR Champion Martin Truex Jr.
2018: Former Devils MVP Taylor Hall
2019: Rutgers NCAA Champions Nick Suriano and Anthony Ashnaught
2020: No award given (COVID-19)
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To contact Steve Politi: [email protected].