Road To The Olympic Games

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Gabriela DeBues-Stafford to honour late runner Gabriele Grunewald in Monaco

Canadian-record holder Gabriela DeBues-Stafford is competing at Friday's Diamond League Herculis meet in Monaco (CBCSports, 2 p.m. ET), racing the women's Brave Like Gabe Mile in honour of the late Gabriele Grunewald, who inspired many with her long and public fight against cancer.

'She was so inspiring,' Canadian-record holder says ahead of Brave Like Gabe Mile

Toronto native Gabriela DeBues-Stafford will pay tribute to late U.S. middle-distance runner Gabriele Grunewald at Friday's Diamond League Herculis meet. She'll race in the women’s Brave Like Gabe Mile in Monaco, where Grunewald set her 1,500-metre personal-best time in 2013. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press/File)

Canada's Gabriela DeBues-Stafford has fond memories of competing against the late Gabriele Grunewald, one of the top middle-distance runners in the United States.

They stood next to each other on the start line at the 2017 USATF Middle Distance Classic ahead of the women's 1,500 metres and Grunewald told her opponent: "We have the same name and can share cheers" before DeBues-Stafford's name was announced in Los Angeles.

DeBues-Stafford won that day and again eight days later when she and Grunewald shared the track at Hayward Field at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. They talked some more and Grunewald, who placed fifth, congratulated the Canadian.

"She was so positive and warm," DeBues-Stafford recalls of Grunewald, who died last month at age 32 after inspiring many with her long and public fight against cancer. "I followed her career and she was so inspiring.

"She radiated a lot of energy and it was admirable when she battled such adversity."

The women's Mile at Friday's Diamond League Herculis meet in Monaco will be named the Brave Like Gabe Mile after late U.S. middle-distance runner Gabriele Grunewald, who died of cancer in June at age 32. She made a big impact in the world of athletics, inspiring many. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images/File)

DeBues-Stafford is competing at Friday's Diamond League Herculis meet in Monaco, racing the women's Brave Like Gabe Mile in honour of Grunewald that will be live streamed at CBCSports.ca at 3:20 p.m. ET.

Inspirational

Grunewald, who often went by "Gabe," set her 1,500 personal-best time of four minutes, 1.48 seconds at Monaco's Stade Louis II in 2013.

Her foundation, Brave Like Gabe, was started to raise awareness of and benefit research into rare forms of cancer.

While running for the University of Minnesota in 2009, Grunewald was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma — a rare form of cancer in the saliva glands. Following surgery and radiation therapy, she went on to finish second in the 1,500 at the 2010 NCAA championships.

She kept on running through three more bouts with the disease, forging a career as a professional athlete and U.S. champion.

Paying tribute to Grunewald on Friday will add to an outstanding 2019 season for DeBues-Stafford that includes Canadian indoor records in the 5,000 (14:57.45) and mile (4:24.80). Her 4:00.46 personal-best in the outdoor 1,500 — set on June 16 at a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco — is 19-100ths of a second shy of Lynn Kanuka's 34-year-old national mark.

WATCH | Gabriela DeBues-Stafford sets personal-best time in 5,000m:

The Canadian held the lead as the Diamond League race entered its final straightaway, before losing the lead and finishing fourth. 2:05

World-class program

While Leah Pells' Canadian record of 4:23.28 in the mile (1,609 metres) is achievable in Monaco, DeBues-Stafford says she is prioritizing placing.

"It will be a fast race," she says. "It's a great field [with 2016 Olympic 1,500 silver medallist Genzebe Dibaba and 2016 indoor world champion Sifan Hassan] and my focus will be on executing the race plan set by my coach [Andy Young] and to beat as many people as possible," DeBues-Stafford says. "I can practise 1,500 tactics with no pressure on time."

Since her move to Scotland earlier this year, the Toronto native has shaved 3.5 seconds off her 1,500 and currently ranks seventh in the world, thanks in large part to Young's world-class program and training with British-record holder and world No. 1 Laura Muir.

"I was working hard in Toronto but within my comfort zone," says DeBues-Stafford, who recently moved into an apartment with her husband Rowan in Glasgow. "With Andy, Laura and [2017 European junior champion] Jemma Reekie, my workouts are very intense with a lot of reps and I'm working harder than ever.

"Laura has won world championship medals indoors and there's no substitute for being around someone like that. You try to match those closest to you. If you're training with ambitious people … you'll push yourself harder."

Training with Laura Muir of Great Britain, the 2019 European champion in the women's 1,500 metres, has helped Canada's Gabriela DeBues-Stafford lower her time in the event by 3.5 seconds to a personal-best 4:00.46. " (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Lyles set to welcome NCAA champ to pro circuit

Noah Lyles headlines the men's 100 in Monaco at 3:35 p.m., fresh off his meet record and 2019 world-leading time of 19.50 seconds in the 200 at last Friday's Diamond League event in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On May 18, the 21-year-old Noah exploded over the final third of the 100 in Shanghai, clocking a 9.86 PB and edging fellow American Christian Coleman in a photo finish at a Diamond League competition.

WATCH | Anson Henry on who will take over from Usain Bolt:

With the departure of Usain Bolt, who is going to step up to the throne as The Fastest Man in the World? CBC Sports Anson Henry breaks it down. 2:32

"I'm very impressed," says CBC Sports track analyst Donovan Bailey. "This guy [Lyles] went from high school to being a pro and I'm looking to amazing things [from him]."

Justin Gatlin, whose meet record of 9.78 in Monaco has held since 2015, is part of Friday's eight-man field and coming off a winning time of 9.92 in Lausanne.

WATCH | Justin Gatlin beats Canada's Aaron Brown in Switzerland:

Justin Gatlin finished with a time of 9.92 to win the men's 100 metres at the Diamond League event in Lausanne. 2:38

"He just wants to stay active, race sharp and keep the competitive juices while competing against guys he knows he'll face in Doha [at the world championships in September]," Bailey says of the 37-year-old.

Also competing is former Texas Tech standout Divine Oduduru of Nigeria who won the 100 (9.86) and 200 (19.73) on June 7 at the NCAA championships and won't complete his senior year after turning professional. Watch Lane 6 in video below.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, a 19-year-old Oduduru ran a 20.34 PB in a 200 heat race to finish second behind eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt and qualify for the semifinals.

"After going to the NCAAs and dominating, he will not be a deer in headlights [against Lyles and Gatlin]. He's a kid who enjoys competing and will talk smack, and I like the confidence," Bailey says. "We're going to see what he's made of.

"It's customary on the circuit that when the young guys come up the veterans give them a baptism and welcome them to the big show."

Other Canadians competing in Monaco: Brandon McBride, men's 800 (3 p.m) and Matt Hughes (men's 3,000 steeplechase, 3:45 p.m.).

Diamond League on CBC Sports

CBC Sports is providing live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network's Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.

The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets, all times ET:

  • Monaco (Friday, 2–4 p.m.)
  • London, England (July 20 and 21, 9–11 a.m.)
  • Birmingham, England (Aug. 18, 9–11 a.m.)
  • Paris (Aug. 24, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Zurich (Aug. 29, 2–4 p.m.)
  • Brussels (Sept. 7, 2–4 p.m.)

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

With files from The Associated Press

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