© Copyright – 2019 – Athletics Illustrated
London, Ontario’s Gabriela Debues-Stafford is experiencing an international-level breakout year. She is now faced with the opportunity to take it to a history-making level.
Including her winter indoors season; in 2019, she has bettered five national distance records a total of seven times. Currently, she is competing in the 2019 IAAF Doha World Athletics Championships and has made the finals in her primary event, the 1500-metre race.
On July 12, she took the mile (1609m) record time from Leah Pells which sat at 4:23.28 with her 4:17.87 performance – Pell’s record was from August 1996. Eight days later, Debues-Stafford broke Lynn Kanuka’s 1500m record that was standing since 1988, by running 1/100th of a second faster at 4:00.26.
In August, she became the first Canadian to break the four-minute barrier running 3:59.59. Both metric mile records happened during Diamond League meets in London and Zurich, respectively. The mile record happened in Fontvieille, Monaco, also a Diamond League meet.
Twice she bettered the 5,000m record with a 14:51.59, then a 14:44.12 performance in May and September, respectively. The first performance took place in Stockholm and the second in Brussels, again in Diamond League meets.
In January, she ran the indoor mile at the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston, running a 4:24.00, the week prior, she took the 5,000m national record with a 14:57.45 run in Glasgow Scotland.
Debues-Stafford has been as good this year as just about anyone has in Canadian history. The year may just get better on Saturday. Saying that, it has already been a long run of exceptional performances and she is now up against the crème de la crème of middle-distance running; a dozen of the best.
The 24-year-old advanced in to the finals in Doha, by running an apparent cruisey-like semi-final to finish second in her heat (#2) in the time of 4:01.04 behind American Jenny Simpson (4:00.99).
There will be 12 athletes on the start line on Saturday, Oct. 5. All but two have personal bests under four-minutes. All but two have run sub-4 during the 2019 season. Some of the veteran names to watch for include Laura Muir of Great Britain, Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, Americans Simpson and Shelby Houlihan, as well as Dutch athlete Sifan Hassan and Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay.
On the right day, any one of these athletes can win the race. Muir, who Debues-Stafford trains with, owns the fastest personal best of the field at 3:55.22, while Hassan has the fastest time during 2019 at 3:55.30. She has a personal best that is faster than just two athletes that she will face on the start line. It will be an exciting race, where anyone can win, but it may not come down to pure speed, it may come down to the best tactics.
Although Hassan currently appears to be the pre-race favourite, she ran a 3:59.09 at the end of her 10,000-metre gold-medal performance one week prior; will she be as sharp, one week hence? Muir on paper may be the shoe-in for silver, however, she has recently overcome injury.
Debues-Stafford’s year has been faster than five of her competitor’s 2019 – although three are within hundredths-of-a-second of her. Muir has run much faster in 2019 at 3:56.73, but not since June, again due to injury. Most of the athletes ran their season bests in June or July, while Debues-Stafford ran her national record in August. Often in global championships it is not the fastest athletes who wins, but the best prepared.
The question remains, is Debues-Stafford still within her peak, or are the other athletes better rested?
We will find out on Saturday.
The Doha timetable and results are available here>>