1500-metre runner Gabriela Stafford excited to welcome the NACAC Championships to her home track
Updated: Aug 12, 2018
Gabriela Stafford remembers walking by Varsity Stadium as a four-year-old. After long days spent at the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor Street in Toronto, Stafford watched as they first installed the blue track, replacing the old, red cinder that had occupied the space for decades.
As she got older, she had the opportunity to train and race there, and over the years, Varsity Stadium became home. In high school, she was part of the Junior Blues program at the University of Toronto Track Club. She would then pursue her university degree at U of T. Now as Varsity Stadium completes another resurfaced track, Stafford is excited to share her home with athletes from all over the North America, Central America and Caribbean countries.
“It’s always an honour to represent Canada,” Stafford says. “To be able to do it not only in my home country, but in my home city, and especially my home track is such a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
After her second season racing on the track circuit in Europe, the 2016 Olympian continues to see improvements in her times results this season. From the Commonwealth Games in Australia to the London Muller Anniversary Games in England, the Canadian champion in the 1500m is showing that she can compete with the best of them. Prior to competing in Europe, Stafford was also a member of the national university champions at the University of Toronto, helping the Varsity Blues capture three consecutive U Sports Championship banners from 2015-2017.
But even with so many experiences on her resume, Stafford believes that her best results were still achieved at Varsity Stadium and she’s hoping to run a good 1500m this weekend for the home crowd.
“I’m really excited about it, whether it be the local Twilight meets, or 800-metre night last year, Some of my best races and of course some of my best workouts have been at Varsity Stadium,” Stafford recalls. “To be able to race at Varsity Stadium is really exciting with all the local support. My family were able to come watch me at Rio but there’s so many more people that will be able to be here.”
And she hopes Toronto embraces this opportunity to catch some of the best track and field has to offer. With the Tokyo Olympics less than two years away, NACAC offers everyone in Toronto, and Canada at a larger scale, a chance to get to know some the athletes who hope represent Canada at the Games.
“It’s hard to follow the track athletes around the world, to see them live so to have this opportunity to see the world’s best athletes in your own backyard, it’s a really good opportunity to connect to the sport at a deeper level,” Stafford says. “People love following sports when they feel engaged and connected to the athlete and the sport.
Even if fans are able to connect with of the athlete’s stories and then they get excited to see them progress towards the next Olympic Games, my hope in this event is that Canada can become engaged in these athletes and their stories.”
Stafford certainly hopes to put on a good race for her hometown fans for the first time at an international meet, and in turn, hopes to build off the energy from those in attendance.
“Whenever I’m abroad and I hear the roar of the crowd when a home athlete is in the race so hopefully [in Toronto] the crowd carry me through the last 100-metres of my race.”