“When I started running, I didn’t win, and I hated that I was losing. But I didn’t hate losing enough to quit,” says Gabriela DeBues-Stafford. “What made matters worse was that my younger sister was immediately good at running, and growing up, I was never as fast as her. It took me until Grade 6 or 7 to see that I wasn’t totally horrible at the sport.” As it turns out, Gabriela is totally amazing at the sport, becoming a World Championships finalist, thanks to her unparalleled work ethic. Lucia Stafford, her younger sister, chased the bar that her big sister consistently raised. Both sisters are now poised to compete at the 2021 Olympics in the 1,500m.
Gabriela, 25, and Lucia, 22, were born three years apart (nearly to the day) in London, Ont., and raised in Toronto. They attended the same schools, all the way through university. They both speak English, French and Spanish fluently. They have matching tattoos on the inside of their left forearm, and neither has a full driver’s licence. Growing up, people mistook them for twins. They also happen to be two of Canada’s best middle-distance runners. The Stafford sisters share many similarities, but the things that bind them the most are their fierce love of family and their shared desire to compete at the highest level of the sport.
Gabriela remembers, at around age eight, telling her mother that she would like to be the best in the world at something. She announced her desire to win from a young age, but Lucia didn’t – she didn’t have to. All she had to do was try to keep up with her sister. Gabriela says that, when they were kids, Lucia could never be the last in line, even on a family outing: “If we were on a walk in the forest, Lucia would have to be the one at the front of the pack. She’s been a chronic one-stepper since she was a toddler.”
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