Mandy Bujold's run at the Tokyo Olympics lasted all of nine minutes. The Canadian boxer fell in her first match, losing to Serbia's Nina Radovanovic. But Bujold won a far larger and more significant victory just by reaching the Olympics at all.
Like many prospective Olympians, Bujold, an 11-time flyweight champion, planned to fight her way into the Games through qualifying in 2020. But when the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of those qualifying tournaments, the IOC instead chose boxing Olympians based on their performance in tournaments reaching as far back as 2018.
For Bujold, that was a problem: She had been pregnant during much of that time, and missed the tournaments the IOC was using as a qualifying metric. She protested, arguing that the IOC was using her pregnancy against her. Instead, she argued, the IOC should acknowledge her prior ranking — No. 8 in the world and second in the Americas. Bujold contended that she had planned her pregnancy in anticipation of the Olympic schedule, and the IOC's method of determining Olympians was discriminatory.
The IOC refused on the grounds that it could not grant a single exception without opening the floodgates to other protests. But Bujold continued to fight, taking her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In late June, she won, which gave Canada the ability to add her to its Olympic roster.
"A lot of people kept saying, ‘One person can’t take on the International Olympic Committee, it’s impossible, it’s not the right time or place,’" Bujold said after her bout. "But I did it, I made it happen and I think I am going to make it easier for other women moving forward."
Bujold has won two gold medals at the Pan American Games, and competed in Rio at the 2016 Olympics. But she had not fought in roughly 18 months, since the start of the pandemic, and she acknowledged her lack of preparation hurt her — as did the lack of fans.
"There were obviously a lot of challenges along the way to get here and there was a very different atmosphere now," she said. "Even walking out, it kind of felt it was more like a club show as compared to the Olympics with no fans or anything to get your energy. I was trying to find that internally, trying to pump myself up and it’s difficult."
Bujold said she intends to write a book about her experiences, documenting in greater detail her battle for women's rights in sports. She acknowledged that she had helped the sport move forward, and hoped that battle would be more important than any loss during the Games themselves.
"I’m proud that I’m a two-time Olympian," she said. "I still made it here and the battle to get here is often harder than the battle fought in the ring."
She later expanded on those thoughts in a Twitter post:
I’m proud of what it took to get here and for me that’s the biggest win of my career… ⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/5scSs0loU5
— Mandy Bujold (@MandyBujold) July 25, 2021
"My Olympic berth was about more than a medal it was about gender equity in sport," she wrote. "Something I can be proud of for years to come."
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at email@example.com.
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