Why Gabriela DeBues-Stafford has a real shot at winning Worlds

DeBues-Stafford's result at the Diamond League on Thursday was about so much more than time. Here's just how impressive the young Canadian's race was and what it could mean at the World Championships

August 30th, 2019 by | Posted in Runs & Races | Tags: , , ,

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford could join a very elite club at this year’s World Championships in Doha. The 23-year-old made Canadian history on Thursday at the Zurich Diamond League, becoming the first Canadian woman to run under four minutes in the 1,500m. Her new record of 3:59.59 is her sixth record of 2019.

RELATED: Gabriela DeBues-Stafford becomes first Canadian woman to run under 4 mintues for 1,500m

There is only one Canadian woman who has ever won an outdoor World Championship on the track–Perdita Felicien back in 2003. Felicien ran the 100mH in 12.53 to win and make Canadian history. DeBues-Stafford certainly has a shot at becoming the second. The runner has already been to both an Olympic Games and an outdoor World Championships, and she’s a completely different runner now than she was then.

In 2016, at only 20 years old, DeBues-Stafford ran a 4:06.53 and qualified for the Olympics in Rio. She did this while she was a full-time student at the University of Toronto. She followed up 2016 with another huge leap forward, running a personal best in 2017 of 4:03.55 in Berlin. Her 2018 saw a bit of a plateau, with a season’s best of 4:05, but a few life changes and a move across the world was the push she needed to have a truly world class 2019 season.

Winning FISU in 2017

Only one year ago DeBues-Stafford was just becoming accustomed to the world scene, and learning the ropes of the highest level of track and field. But she’s a quick learner and her 2019 has proved that. The runner has now broken six Canadian records in eight months–all before this October’s World Championships.

RELATED: Gabriela Stafford is moving across the world

While the 2019 Worlds team has not been named yet by Athletics Canada, DeBues-Stafford achieved standard (4:06.50) and won nationals, meaning that she’s fulfilled the requirements laid out by the governing body. The only question that remains is whether she will run the 5,000m or the 1,500m. The runner achieved standard in both events, but they’re too close together to attempt a double, so the runner will have to choose. After yesterday’s performance, hopefully she will opt for the 1,500m.

DeBues-Stafford says that tactically she was thrilled with yesterday. “My execution yesterday was even better than the time. The first lap was quick and it settled pretty fast. I feel like the brakes were put on three times during the race. In the third lap when it accordioned up, it turned into a walk, and I figured there was no way that sub-four was going to happen. Even though I was on the inside, I was behind the people who were going to drop the pace so I didn’t have to go around them, I could go with them. With 200m to go I saw [Genzebe] Dibaba and knew I could pass her and got by smoothly. I was so thrilled with third that I didn’t even think to look at the time.” DeBues-Stafford handled every pace change perfectly and remained composed throughout the entire race, making her big move with about 70 metres to go.

On Thursday DeBues-Stafford took down 1,500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba. She also bested American Jenny Simpson, who was the 1,500m world champion in 2011 and one of the best middle-distance runners the country has ever seen. On top of those two stand-outs, DeBues-Stafford beat multiple women who have been World Championship finalists and stood on top of major podiums. DeBues-Stafford is currently ranked fourth in the world for the event behind Laura Muir, Sifan Hassan and Tsegay Gudaf. Muir is currently dealing with an injury, Hassan will likely run the 5,000m at Worlds and DeBues-Stafford has beaten Gudaf head-to-head on multiple occasions. There’s no doubt that DeBues-Stafford is ready for a huge performance at Worlds–and we can’t wait to watch.