On Monday evening, USA's Ryan Wilson crossed the finish line in the men’s 110m hurdles behind fellow American David Oliver to claim the silver medal. But Wilson's job in Russia isn't over. He not only trains and competes in athletics, he coaches a fellow teammate -- Nia Ali. Ali begins her quest for the podium in Friday’s first heat of the women's 100m hurdles. Below is a Q&A from Wilson the day before Ali's competition begins.
When did you start coaching Nia Ali?
"I just started this year in November. I was pretty surprised when she brought it up to me. We had trained together for a year before. She was looking to make a coaching change. I think she was looking elsewhere until I took the volunteer assistant job at USC and coached the hurdlers there. I think when I took the job there she saw me as a coaching option. She asked me what I thought, and at first I was obviously shocked. I had to think about it for a long time. We discussed a lot of things and I discussed it with my coach as well. Once we came to an understanding of how things would have to function and whether or not just logistically it was going to work, I started working with her."
Isn't it tough to balance your training and competition and her training and competition?
"Worlds has been pretty easy. The schedule is more spread out. It's been the perfect first year to do this. At Worlds I'm days 2-3, she's days 7-8.The way that we structure practice, the schedule worked out perfectly. The days I was going to be competing -- Saturday, Sunday -- were her off days anyway. I was able to easily focus and compartmentalize my attention between her and myself. I'd say U.S. Trials (Championships) was really tough. My first round was the same day as her semis and finals. Everything's together. U.S. Trials was a situation where I went and competed and got treatment, then went upstairs from the gym floor and started warming her up for semifinals. I'm literally warming up and stretching as she's getting ready to do drills to go out for her semifinal. I guess you don't see that very often."
Does being an athlete make you a better coach or does being a coach make you a better athlete?
"Being an athlete helps make you a better coach. There are so many moments that when Nia goes through them, I know exactly what she's going through. I'm not removed at all from those moments. I'm at a higher level of being able to relate to my athlete than any other coach that's out there. I'm not saying there are others that don't relate better, but I just know so many things that she's going through. Because we both deal with the hurdles, it helps me deal with the mental aspect of the sport which is really important at this level."
How do you think she's going to do?
"I think she's going to do really well. She's looked really good and I know she's very excited and USA Championships was such a thrill for me. I know as an athlete you sort of expect yourself to do things. I wasn't really surprised with what I did. I got the job done. But watching her make the team was like a feeling I never had before. I was so proud, and you don't have any control over the situation when you're a coach. I expect her to do really well. I just hope we can keep getting better this year. She's PR'd twice this year and she's dropped about a quarter of a second in her race. So for our first year, that's really exciting. We're really happy, but she wants to get on the podium. I think it would be extremely special. It's already been really special, but I'll lose my mind if she gets on the podium."
Did your getting on the podium motivate her?
"Just like when she made the team, it motivated me. It's a different type of motivation. When you see other U.S. athletes do well (it motivates you). She just has a bit more personal connection to it. When you see your teammate or friend do well, you feel really good about that and you want it for yourself. I know she wants that for herself. I don't know if she needs too much more motivation, but she's very excited and I think she's going to run great. She's a competitor. She competes very well in big moments. I think she proved that at U.S. Championships. Everybody knows about Queen [Harrison], everybody knows about Brianna Rollins, everybody knows about Dawn [Harper] but Nia Ali is a newer name for some people."