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Gabriela Debues-Stafford’s hair embraced the LGBTQ community despite Olympic rules

Her rainbow-dyed hair in the 1500-meter was the perfect answer to the Olympic ban on speech and demonstrations.

Athletics - Olympics: Day 12
Gabriela Debues-Stafford of Team Canada used her hair to make her statement of LGBTQ inclusion at the Tokyo Olympics.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Gabriela Debues-Stafford made a name for herself at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, both with her 1500-meter performance and her rainbow-colored hair.

The runner from Canada raced into the final on Friday night, but the field was just too fast for her. The winner of the gold medal, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, set a new Olympic record en route to her victory. Debues-Stafford finished fifth, five seconds behind.

Despite missing a medal, Debues-Stafford walks away from the Tokyo track a champion, having found a way to express her love of her LGBTQ community why still competing within the rules about “demonstrations” set forth by the International Olympic Committee.

Debues-Stafford ran her races with bright rainbow-colored hair, letting everyone know “I’m here, I’m queer.”

“Hair is such a wonderful method of self-expression,” the Olympian wrote on Instagram, “and having the freedom to explore different styles and bright colours, I feel like my fully authentic self.”

We’ve seen other athletes and people in sports get creative with ways to play within the rules and still express their support for various causes.

When he was in the NFL, running back Deangelo Williams died part of his hair pink to support breast cancer awareness, after his mother died of breast cancer. It came after he wore pink on his uniform and the NFL told him he couldn’t.

Rainbow Laces and Rainbow Tape have both popped up in sports. Rainbow Laces are a result of a lack of regulation of shoelaces in the Premier League, and the NFL actually doesn’t bar rainbow-colored tape on the end of a stick. Each campaign has found a way to allow athletes to show support for the LGBTQ community within the rules of sports.

While Debues-Stafford may not have won the Olympic medal she wanted in Tokyo, but her quiet — yet very loud — nod to the LGBTQ community on the track all week was a championship move.