Early bird striving to catch Pearson
The West Australian
February 4, 2012,
Nia Ali relaxing at Scarborough Beach before next
week's event in Perth
Nia Ali, one of the most exciting young sprint hurdlers in the US, has arrived early to prepare for her showdown against Australian world champion Sally Pearson at the Go for 2&5 Track Classic at the WA Athletics Stadium next Saturday.
The 23-year-old, who graduated from the University of Southern California with a psychology major last year, is chasing selection in her first Olympic team for London, where she faces stiff competition from Olympic champion Dawn Harper and world championship silver medallist Danielle Carruthers.
Ali, who focused on the heptathlon throughout a successful collegiate career, has decided to dedicate herself to the 100m hurdles, where she recorded the eighth fastest time in the world last year despite being a relative novice.
She arrived in Perth on Tuesday to allow herself the best preparation to take on the top-ranked hurdler in the world, while also escaping the US winter where the temperature was 5C at her home in Philadelphia.
Ali said the cold had made training difficult in the US.
"The weather plays a big role, but one of my training partners, John Steffensen, was also here along with my coach, Darrell Smith, so the opportunity to come out and train here and race against someone as good as Sally so early in my season, when others are still racing indoors, was a great opportunity," she said.
Ali, who recorded a personal best 12.63sec. to win the NCAA title, said she was fully committed to the hurdles but could not tell what the future held.
She believes the key is to execute with a new coach, having previously worked with a collegiate coach.
Ali has only had a couple of outings against Pearson and believes the experience racing in Perth, and also in Sydney on February 18, will prove invaluable experience for three hurdles spots in the US team for trials in June.
"It is such a tight race and all the Americans are within close range, so it can be anyone's race and whoever executes best will be selected," Ali said.
"I am confident that if I follow the program my coach has laid down, I should have a good shot."
Other American big names for the Perth Track Classic include Olympic discus champion Stephanie Brown- Trafton, US javelin record holder Kara Patterson and former pole vault champion Mark Hollis.
"If I follow the program … I should have a good shot."