Nia Ali’s bid for a repeat World Championship triumph ended in heartbreak Saturday when the Pleasantville High School graduate hit the 10th hurdle in the trials and went down on the track, unable to finish the race.
Ali was leading the first of six qualifying races at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., and with the top three in each race plus the next-six fastest hurdlers advancing to Sunday’s semifinals, she only needed a pedestrian time over 13 seconds to qualify.
Ali, racing in lane 5, got a tremendous start and was just ahead of world No. 6 Britany Anderson of Jamaica before smacking the back of her lead leg into the 9th hurdle. She stumbled coming off the hurdle, losing her steps, and then smashed into 10 and crashed to the track six or seven meters from the finish line.
Ali hit the 9th hurdle so hard she knocked the hurdle in lane 6 out of place, resulting in a DQ. So even if she had been able to finish the race with a fast enough time to advance, she would not have been able to race in the semis.
Anderson of Jamaica wound up winning that heat in 12.59, and she was just behind Ali when she went down, so Ali would have probably run something around 12.55 in a clean race. Third place in that race was 13.04, and everyone who ran faster than 13.12 advanced to the semis.
Ali, the Olympic silver medalist in 2016 and World Champion in 2019, is No. 10 in world history with her 12.34 from her win at Worlds in Doha, Qatar, three years ago. She’s also No. 10 in the world this year with her 12.49 in the semifinals at U.S. Nationals on the same track last month.
The 33-year-old Ali had her 3rd baby last year and went 895 days between 100-meter hurdles races after the World Championships before returning to world-class form.
Because this year’s World Championships was originally scheduled for 2020 and the meet is held every other year, 2023 is also a World Championships year, so Ali could have another shot at a 2nd world title in Budapest if she wishes to continue competing. The next Olympics is in Paris in 2024.
Ali, a 2006 Pleasantville graduate, is scheduled to race again on Aug. 6 at the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial Diamond League meet in Silesia, Poland.