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Mamma Nia! Nia Ali and Keni Harrison Go 1-2 in the 100-Meter Hurdles

By Karen Rosen | Oct. 06, 2019, 2:55 p.m. (ET)

Nia Ali celebrates winning gold in the Women's 100-meter hurdles at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Oct. 06, 2019 in Doha, Qatar


DOHA, Qatar -- Nia Ali was Supermom at the IAAF World Championships Sunday night.

The mother of two defeated the world record holder and this year's world leader in the 100-meter hurdles for her first world outdoor gold medal. Then she celebrated by carrying her 1-year-old daughter down the track, her 4-year-old son skipping ahead while "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge played on the loudspeaker.

At age 30, Ali is living proof that you can take time off to have babies and come back even stronger.

The 2016 Olympic silver medalist and two-time world indoor champion in 2014 and 2016 posted a personal best time of 12.34 seconds. She moved into a tie for ninth-fastest performer in history with the best time by a Team USA athlete this year.

Ali is eager for people "to see that just because you're a mom doesn't mean you can't get out there and continue to be an athlete, as well as a top world-class athlete."

Eighth in this event two years ago in London, Ali had plenty of daylight at the finish line between herself and teammate Keni Harrison, the world record holder. Harrison ran 12.46 seconds, .26 off the extraordinary mark of 12.20 she set in July 2016.

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Harrison was also delighted to win her first world outdoor medal after fourth place two years ago and a false start in the semifinals in 2015. She edged Danielle Williams of Jamaica by .01. Williams still has the world-leading time of 12.32 seconds.

"I knew it was going to be really competitive," said Harrison, 27, who credited maturity for the difference between missing the podium and making it. "I just tried to control my nerves and just think about some of the things that my coach wanted me to worry about, which is my start. Get out really hard and just give it everything that I have. I'm just blessed to come out and get my first medal."

Team USA has now won 16 medals in the 100 hurdles: eight gold, five silver and three bronze. Americans have been in 16 of the 17 finals, with the exception of 1997.

The last world champion from the U.S. was Brianna Rollins, now McNeal, in 2013. Unfortunately, she false-started in her heat Saturday by a hair and was disqualified.

"She's not only a teammate, she's one of my really good friends," Ali said. "To see anyone work that hard and come out and not be able to show off what they've done is definitely heartbreaking."

Ali, who won the eighth gold medal for Team USA in the event, let out a scream as she crossed the finish line.

She said she began visualizing the race as soon as she arrived in Doha "and every time that's the way it ended for me."

Of course, she knew she couldn't celebrate without her kids, Titus and Yuri, who were handed down from the stands at Khalifa International Stadium where they had watched their mother run.

While some moms promise their kids a trip to the toy department, Ali promised Titus he could go on the track after she won. After all, she carried him in her arms at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 for her silver-medal victory lap. This time, Titus ran and danced.

"He was looking forward to it," Ali said, "and I'm happy I was able to give him the chance to do that."

Yuri, however, looked a little stunned by all the commotion.

Ali shares Yuri with her boyfriend, Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse, who already had won a silver medal in the 200-meter and a bronze in the 100-meter in Doha to go along with two other bronze medals in 2015. He is also an Olympic silver and bronze medalist.

Titus' father is Michael Tinsley, a world and Olympic silver medalist for Team USA in the 400-meter hurdles.

Ali feels a kinship with Team USA's Allyson Felix, 33, who had a daughter last November, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 32, of Jamaica, who welcomed a boy in August 2017. Felix won her 12th and 13th world gold medals in Doha while Fraser-Pryce added her eighth and ninth.

"It's such inspiration to see everyone be able to come together and feed off of each other and that was just the main thing," Ali said. "Shelly's always, 'Hey, do your thing,' giving me great tips, great advice and she's also supportive. It was great to be able to feed off of that, especially at the end of the championship."

The mothers in the sport have a bond that encompasses all events on the track and the field.

"I saw that there was a thrower who has a family as well," Ali said. "And it's just always great to hear these stories. And to see these world class women come out here and just put on a show and be strong and courageous. And so it's brilliant."

That's a far cry from 1948, when the legendary Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands was a 30-year-old mother of two winning four gold medals at the Olympic Games in London. She faced criticism from people who said she should stay home with her children.

In this era of social media, nearly 13,000 people have watched a video of Ali talking about how motherhood changed her as an athlete.

She said that some facets of parenting have even helped with her hurdling.

"Well, you have to have a lot of patience being a mother, for one," Ali said. "I definitely carried that over to when I'm out here. And just being able to do my best under pressure and be able to remain calm and just have that strength and motivation for my kids."

While her fast-twitch muscles were the first to go during her pregnancy, Ali said she didn't rush her comeback or put pressure on herself.

"I kind of took everything just one day at a time," Ali said. "And I have the support so I'm able to manage it. Andre's a great father and my coaches understand it, so I just have good support around me."

While Ali and De Grasse are training at their base Germany, family helps take care of the kids in Jacksonville, Florida. But Ali made sure to squeeze in a trip back home between meets for a parent-teacher conference.

The school sent out a mass e-mail telling the other parents that Ali was running in the world championships.

And Titus has show-and-tell every Thursday.

Hmmm. Wonder what he'll bring?

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Nia Ali