New Jersey's Sydney McLaughlin and Athing Mu, two of Team USA's biggest stars at the Olympic Games in Tokyo where they each captured two gold medals, were honored by their hometowns this past weekend.
McLaughlin, who won the 400-meter hurdles by breaking her own World Record with a time of 51.46 and led off the winning 4x400 in Tokyo, was escorted by police and fire departments to Columbia Park in Dunellen on Saturday morning for a ceremony to rename the track "Sydney McLaughlin Track.''
Several hundred fans jammed themselves into Brian O'Neill Sr. Memorial Field to show their support for the 22-year-old McLaughlin, a 2017 graduate of Union Catholic High School. McLaughlin was joined by several family members and her fiance', former NFL wide receiver Andre Levrone Jr., who proposed to McLaughlin on Aug. 20.
The ceremony featured several speakers, including U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Colman, D, 12th, and Mike McCabe, McLaughlin's T&F coach at Union Catholic.
Watson pledged to read the language of a proclamation she presented to McLaughlin into the Congressional record, and McCabe, who predicted last year that McLaughlin would win the Olympic gold and break the world record in the 400 hurdles, said McLaughlin is one of a kind.
"Sydney is the greatest female high school track and field athlete of all time, and possibly the greatest regardless of gender,'' said McCabe, named the National High School Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year for 2021 by the USTFCCCA and will be inducted into the Union Catholic Hall of Fame next month. Sydney was a pleasure to coach. She is a terrific person. She's kind, caring and thoughtful. I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to be her coach for four years. I'm so happy for what Syd has done, she's achieved her goals. She really is a special person, who has earned her success, and for as much as people just expect it to happen for her, she has to work for it. Yes, she has talent and ability and all that, but you have to work for it, and you have to be able to do it. So that's the most unbelievable part that she could put it all together and keep it all together because that's the ultimate challenge.''
McLaughlin, who spent nearly two hours after the ceremony posing for photos and interacting with fans, said it meant a lot to be back in Dunellen.
"It's just awesome to being to be home, with family and finally celebrate," McLaughlin said as her two shiny gold medals dangled from her neck. "It's just really great to have the opportunity to share this with everyone in my town."
On Sunday, it was Mu's turn to be feted as the city of Trenton held a huge parade to celebrate her accomplishments at the Olympics, where she became the first U.S. woman to capture the 800 gold since 1968, and anchoring the victorious 4x400 relay. Mu, who ran 1:55.21 in Tokyo to break the American record, broke her own record when she ran 1:55.05 at the Prefontaine Classic on Aug. 21.
Many politicians attended the event, including Gov. Phil Murphy.
The 19-year-old Mu wore her gold medals and waved to enthusiastic supporters while riding on a float during the parade, which began at Trenton High School, where Mu graduated from in 2020, and finished with a ceremony at City Hall.
"One thing I can say about Trenton is, we may not be the shiniest city, we have our ups and down, but when someone does something amazing, we all come together," Mu said in a report by NJ.com.
Mu, who went pro and signed with Nike after she turned in the greatest season in NCAA history as a freshman at Texas A&M this past year, also told NJ.com that she's grateful for the support she's received from Trenton.
"This didn't come out of nowhere. I've been running for basically all my life,'' Mu told NJ.com. "Beyond just running, I had a good support system behind me, my coaches, my family, and then support from the city as well. Those aren't just my own medals. They're medals for everyone that's been with me My journey, up until this point, wasn't smooth. I had my ups and downs. I had my moments of questioning my career, what I wanted to do and everything, but I was resilient. I had a vision in mind.''