Nia Ali and son Titus Maximus celebrate in Rio ()Nia Ali and son Titus Maximus celebrate in Rio () © Copyright

A New Challenge

The hurdles alone are no longer enough of a challenge for US sprint hurdler Nia Ali. The two-time world indoor champion and Olympic silver medallist talks to Kajsa Bergqvist for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics. 

When Nia Ali gave birth to son Titus Maximus in May 2015, she didn't expect to have two more global medals to her name less than 15 months further down the line.

The 2014 world indoor champion’s pregnancy came unexpected, but there were no mixed emotions about becoming a mum this close to an Olympic Games. “No,” she says without hesitation, “I didn’t worry at all. I just embraced it.”

Keeping in touch with track and field during her time off helped Ali get back into training three months after giving birth. “It kept me hungry,” says Ali, who even during pregnancy went to the track to follow her competitors’ results.

After a solid winter’s training Ali was back in shape, just in time for the Portland World Indoor Championships on home soil. She won the inaugural World Indoor Tour before taking her second 60m hurdles world indoor crown in 7.81.

“I didn’t put any expectations on me,” she says of going into Portland with a wild card entry. The victory, she says, “felt different [from 2014]. I had my son there. I had my mom, my aunt. And it was in the States”.

Bursting with confidence, Ali turned her attention to the outdoor season. And while most of the world’s hurdling elite focused on the obstacles directly in front of them on the track, Ali added some more on her way to Rio – six to be precise.

In April the hurdles specialist competed in two heptathlons, scoring a PB 5870 points. She insists her consistency over the hurdles for the remainder of the season (17 sub-13-seconds performances) is down to her heptathlon training.

“I really think it helps out with my hurdles,” she says. “It is kinda unorthodox, but it’s a challenge.”

When she told her coaches “let’s train for it and see where it goes”, they embraced the idea. The decision paid dividends. “It kept me injury free, honestly, in a weird way. It strengthened other parts of my body that would help me stay healthy.”

After qualifying for the US Olympic team in July, Ali and teammates Brianna Rollins and Kristi Castlin went on to make history in Rio. Ali took silver behind Rollins in 12.59, just 0.04secs shy of her season’s best, while the trio completed the first clean sweep in Olympic 100m hurdles history. 

And despite having three global hurdles medals under her belt, Ali doesn’t hide the fact that the multi events hold a special place in her heart.

“I think it’s a possibility,” says Ali of shifting her focus towards the heptathlon over the next four years.

“I’m gonna continue to work, so the better I get, the more I will figure out in which direction to go. But that would be a dream come true, if I could come back and make Tokyo [2020] in the multi [events].

“I like the multis in general because the girls are great. The friendships that you have, everyone roots for each other and I like that people genuinely care about how you’re doing.”

To hear Ali talk in depth about the challenges of motherhood and training under an athlete-coach, watch the full episode below: