Toronto’s most inspirational women of 2019: Gabriela DeBues-Stafford

Our annual look at Toronto’s record-breaking, change-making and all around amazing women

The runner

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford broke the Canadian 1,500 metres record twice


When my sister Gabriela was 10, she crossed the finish line at a school track meet and cried to our mother, revealingly, “I just want to be the best in the world at something.”

Now, 14 years later, Gabriela is achieving this dream and more, placing sixth at the World Championships with a 1,500 metre time of 3:56 that ranks her among the top 1,500 metre runners of all time.

She’s gone from hoping to make a senior national team, to breaking Canadian records eight times in the span of six months. She’s shifted her goals from wanting to make an Olympic final, to wanting to win an Olympic medal.

Although external factors have gone into this success, including good coaching and drive and focus, which Gabriela has in spades, it’s her confidence and ability to ask herself, “Why not?” When the bell rings for that last lap, you can see the passion in her face and the determination she feels to make it all worth it.

Gabriela is like this in all aspects of life, using her passion and her intelligence to constantly evaluate things that happen around her and challenge them. She’s very open about her opinions and struggles, showing that vulnerability is an important quality that should be nurtured and that living outside your comfort zone is where the most growth happens.

If anything, Gabriela has taught us that this sport is not only about seeing how fast your legs can move, but how fast your brain and heart can will your legs to go. Gabriela has shown us that, for her, it’s pretty damn fast.

Next on the list: Bhutila Karpoche

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