World indoor 60m hurdles champion Nia Ali (Getty Images) © Copyright
Series Hollywood, USA

Work, rest and play – Nia Ali

The world indoor 60m hurdles champion Nia Ali takes time out from her busy training schedule to answer our work, rest and play questions.


What is your favourite training session?

Nia Ali: Anything with hurdles and jumps. I really like anything with a technical element. I could do it all day long.

What is your least favourite training session?

NA: Any sessions that are speed endurance based. It is so bad!

What are your three favourite things about being an athlete?

NA: The travel, for sure, is number one. The second thing would be meeting other athletes and people who can relate to you; and thirdly, being an inspiration. I didn’t realise how much people appreciate the sport until I got over to Europe. Kids would be asking for your bib, your shirt and your shoes - some crazy things. It is an amazing feeling.

Who is your favourite training partner?

NA: I don’t know If I could choose just one, everyone has different strengths. I'd pick five different people for different parts of my training.

What is your favourite music to train to?

NA: Anything mainstream, so the likes of Katy Perry, Maroon 5, One Direction and Adele. I love mainstream music. It makes me feel happy and good.


Where is your favourite place to relax?

NA: I like sitting by the pool at my place, and being at home in LA with my dogs.

Describe your perfect day without training.

NA: I'd catch up on some sleep before spending a day with a bunch of friends. I'd catch up on some shows, walk the dogs on the beach. I'd eat with friends. Go bowling, skating. Just have fun.

What is your favourite TV show?

NA: I like ABC family shows. I like girly shows like Gossip Girls, Pretty Little Liars. I've seen them all.

What is your favourite meal?

NA: Salmon with brown rice, spinach and broccoli.


When did you start playing piano?

NA: A friend of mine in middle school started taking lessons when we were about 12. We were very competitive and we would challenge each other to learn things as quickly as possible. I started to take piano classes at high school and it just went from there. I still play about an hour a day. I try to dedicate time to my hobbies.

Are there are transferable skills between the hurdles and playing piano?

NA: It takes a great deal of focus to play piano and do track. I read music, but I'm also learning to  play by ear and that has helped me a lot, because there is a certain pitch and a certain transfer needed to be able to find that key. When I watch (Yordanka) Donkova (the world 100m hurdles record-holder) and Sally (Pearson) hurdle, I pick up little things. Some things I take on board and others I take out. I think my music background correlates in that manner.

If you could play a duet with one other person from the athletics world, who would it be and why?

NA: Jason Richardson (2011 world 110m hurdles champion) because I know he’d give me great vocals. It would just be dramatic.

Do you listen to piano music before a competition?

NA: I listen to a lot of modern jazz instrumentals.

How do you get your piano fix when you are on the circuit?

NA: I do miss it and I don't get my fix. When I'm away, I do miss my instruments. Sometimes when I'm staying at a hotel and I see a piano there I'm tempted to play. I'm very close to Michael Tinsley (world and Olympic 400m hurdles silver medallist) and, on the circuit, he's always encouraging me to play the piano.

Steve Landells for the IAAF