'Running is just about races now': DeBues-Stafford checks nerves ahead of Zurich meet
Toronto native looks to add Diamond Trophies to record-breaking season
In her breakout season on the track featuring five Canadian records, it's hard to imagine a time when Gabriela DeBues-Stafford felt overwhelmed running two different races in a week and struggled to gain entry to a Diamond League event.
The Toronto native was 13 when her mom died from leukemia in 2009 and dealing with her loss triggered race anxiety, leaving DeBues-Stafford physically and mentally exhausted.
On the eve of the 2016 Olympic trials in Edmonton, DeBues-Stafford — then a runner for the University of Toronto — was so nervous she became physically ill. But 24 hours after making a call to U of T cross-country assistant coach Terry Radchenko, DeBues-Stafford won the women's 1,500 metres ahead of her Summer Games debut in Rio, where she placed ninth in a heat race but didn't advance to the semifinals.
DeBues-Stafford, now 23, is one of only two Canadian athlete this year to compete in different events at both Diamond League Finals — Crystal Emmanuel is racing the 100 and 200 metres — as she will also run the women's 5,000 in Brussels on Sept. 6.
Last year ... I was lost and unclear about what the future held for me, but I have recommitted myself to the sport and training seriously at a high level.— Runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, who has set 5 Canadian records this season
"It's surreal and exciting, the natural next step," she says over the phone from Scotland, where she lives with her husband Rowan. "I've worked real hard to be in this position.
DeBues-Stafford was covering the 1,500 in the 4:03.00 range to end the 2017 season but struggled to distinguish herself last year and made just one Diamond League appearance, clocking 4:07.51 for 11th place in Birmingham, U.K.
Zürich Diamond League FINAL today! 1500m goes off at 2:41PM ET. Tune in on <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcsports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cbcsports</a> to see if Rowan gets his diamond 😉 (the W is a tall order this year - but I'm excited to give it my all and see how high I can place) <a href="https://t.co/dqAkiznINI">pic.twitter.com/dqAkiznINI</a>—@gstafford13
Everything changed last August after DeBues-Stafford joined coach Andy Young's world-class program and began training with British-record holder Laura Muir. She wonders if leaving the many "loaded memories" in Toronto for a more relaxed training environment led to newfound success.
On July 20, DeBues-Stafford set her fifth Canadian record of 2019, stopping the clock in a personal-best 4:00.26 to beat Lynn Kanuka's near-34-year-old mark by 1-100th of a second in the 1,500 at the Müller Anniversary Games in London.
WATCH: Gabriela DeBues-Stafford earns 5th Canadian record of 2019:
DeBues-Stafford's other national records:
- July 12: Ran 4:17.87 in the mile at Monaco to break Leah Pells' Canadian mark.
- May 30: Clocked 14:51.59 in the 5,000 at her Diamond League season debut in Stockholm.
- Jan. 26: Shattered the indoor 5,000 record in 14:57.45 in Glasgow.
- Jan. 4: Covered the indoor mile in 4:24.80 at Boston.
"I feel like I'm a tier below," DeBues-Stafford says of her opponents. "They have that edge of years of experience and fitness on me. But it takes longer to recover from the 5,000 so racing the 1,500 first is good.
"It'll be interesting to see what happens in the 5,000. The Canadian record was the goal [this season] and [my coach and I] weren't expecting to be 70 metres from winning the [race in Stockholm]. I'm fit to run a good 5,000."
The stage is set here in Zurich for the <a href="https://twitter.com/Diamond_League?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Diamond_League</a> final! <a href="https://twitter.com/AthleticsCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@athleticscanada</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/trackandfield?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#trackandfield</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/athletics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#athletics</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/diamondleague?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#diamondleague</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/zurichdl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#zurichdl</a> <a href="https://t.co/isubCtMs4x">pic.twitter.com/isubCtMs4x</a>—@GlenroyGilbert
Other Canadians competing in Zürich:
WATCH | Canadian Brittany Crew scores Pan Am silver in women's shot put:
Crystal Emmanuel, women's 200m (2:41 p.m.): Thursday marks only the fifth 200 of the season for Emmanuel, who matched her season best of 22.89 seconds with a fourth-place finish at Pan Ams. The Toronto native's best Diamond League placing was second on June 13 in Norway, where the 27-year-old also ran 22.89. Emmanuel is hoping to race the 100 and 200 next month at the world championships in Doha, Qatar.
WATCH | Geneviève Lalonde runs to steeplechase Pan Am gold:
Mike Mason, men's high jump (12:45 p.m.): The 32-year-old from Nanoose Bay, B.C., squeezed into this Diamond League Final with his first victory of the season on the pro circuit. Mason cleared 2.28 metres for his highest leap since opening the outdoor campaign with a winning height of 2.31 on April 5 in California. Mason placed fifth and seventh, respectively, the past two years at the Diamond League Final.
WATCH | Mike Mason builds off success at nationals, Pan Am Games:
WATCH | Brandon McBride runs to 800m victory: