Photo by Julie Fuster

Few events blend grace, power, and precision like pole vaulting. Among the elite competitors stands Gabi Leon, whose journey to professional pole vaulting is as inspiring as it is unique. Gabi’s path to pole vaulting was an unexpected one, filled with trials, triumphs, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Gabi’s journey began unexpectedly in high school. Initially passionate about soccer, a persistent algebra teacher convinced her to try pole vaulting. “I was terrified at first,” Gabi recalls, “but I fell in love with it from day one.” Her talent quickly became evident, leading her to be recruited by the University of Louisville. Despite setbacks, Gabi’s perseverance paid off. By her fifth year, she reignited her passion, winning the Outdoor NCAA Championship and signing with Puma as a professional athlete.

Training for Gabi is intense and structured. Her mornings start quietly with breakfast and Bible reading. Training sessions include a warm-up, vaulting, running, and weightlifting, often totaling six hours. Post-training, Gabi enjoys a hearty meal and unwinds by watching movies with friends. “These are my favorite days,” she shares, emphasizing the balance between rigorous training and relaxation.

Gabi has faced numerous challenges, particularly with the mental aspects of the sport. “The quote by Henry Ford comes to mind: ‘If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’” She combats these feelings by reminding herself of her capabilities and extensive training. “The only thing getting in the way of me achieving what I know I can is simply me,” she asserts. Gabi’s mental resilience is a testament to her ability to push through doubt and fear, showcasing the power of a positive mindset.

Mentorship and support have been crucial in Gabi’s journey. She draws inspiration from her coach Brooke Rasnick and fellow athletes. “Brooke has taught me that while vaulting is exciting, there is life outside the sport, and I am loved regardless of performance,” Gabi says. This perspective has helped Gabi maintain a healthy balance between her identity as an athlete and her life beyond the sport.


As a woman in a highly competitive sport, Gabi has seen positive changes in the perception and treatment of female athletes. She believes that sport empowers women to use their voices and share their stories. “We know how to channel emotion, fight for a dream, and work hard to achieve what we are capable of,” she says. Gabi’s experiences reflect the growing recognition of women’s strength and resilience in sports.

Among her most memorable moments is her victory at the 2022 Outdoor National Championships. “That win was so much more than just a trophy,” Gabi explains. It symbolized five years of growth, hard work, and support from her coach and teammates. Looking ahead, Gabi aims to qualify for the Olympic Team at the upcoming trials. Beyond specific height goals, she aspires to become one of the best pole vaulters in history and to use her platform to empower young athletes.

Gabi’s advice to aspiring athletes is simple yet profound: “Never forget your why. Remember what made you fall in love with your sport in the first place and hold on to that.” She stresses the importance of finding joy in the journey, embracing growth, and understanding that one’s worth is not defined by athletic performance.

Gabi Leon’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance, passion, and unwavering self-belief. As she continues to defy gravity and reach new heights, she remains a beacon of inspiration for athletes everywhere.