Gabriela Szabo’s post-track career has taken her from college to government and beyond
In 2005, Gabriela Szabo arrived at a crossroads as her career drew to a close.
“I did not know what was next,” admits the elite Romanian runner. “Would I be capable of being a winner ever again? Or would I live for the rest of my life remembering my glorious years?”
Szabo’s glorious years included Olympic medals of every colour, plus six world titles at distances from 1,500m to 5,000m. But in May 2005, she retired at the age of 29. How would she follow her career on the track?
A new race for success
As Szabo puts it, the end of her athletics career presented an opportunity “to enter a new race for success”.
Having studied for seven years to obtain a Sports Masters degree and then a PhD, which focused on distance and middle-distance running, Szabo became the Marketing Vice-President at the Romanian Athletics Federation and a board member at the Romanian Olympic Committee (COR). Then in 2014, she was appointed as the Romanian Minister of Youth and Sports.
“These two years were really intense,” says Szabo, describing her time in government. “Being a minister is far more complex than I could have ever imagined. It was my role to bring people together and transform them into a real team. For me, as an individual runner, this was a real challenge. But I have learned to gain people’s trust, to motivate and inspire them.”
Working for Adecco
When unforeseen circumstances ended her time in office in 2015, Szabo was again left in an uncertain situation. But once more, she found a new opening.
Since the start of 2016, Szabo has worked as a Corporate Affairs Manager for Adecco, the global human resources company. Szabo has had to coordinate four important projects for Adecco, the most notable being the introduction of the IOC’s Athlete Career Programme within the COR.
“One day I was the best in my field, the next day I had to choose a different field that I knew nothing about,” she explains. “I had to reinvent myself over and over again. I call it evolution. I feel that I have evolved as a professional and as a person.”
Szabo hopes her message will resonate with all athletes who are facing an uncertain future at the end of their competitive career.
“I know that as long as I keep my winning mindset, I can do anything. For me, for sure, impossible is nothing.
“You need to trust yourself and keep the mindset of a winner. If you have it and you never let it go, you can be whatever you want. No matter what you are competing for, you can always be a winner.”