From two black eyes to Tokyo: The female boxer aiming to make Olympic history

·5-min read

Watch: How To Raise An Olympian - Tammara Thibeault

This interview is part of the exclusive Yahoo series 'How To Raise An Olympian', in which we speak to Olympic stars and their parents to get a unique insight into what it takes to raise an elite athlete. Watch the full interview above - and for more see the links at the bottom of the page.

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Growing up in the Thibeault family, the mantra “the sky's the limit” was ingrained in all six members.

Tammara Thibeault, the second of four children to Patrick and Judeline, will be representing Canada in boxing at the 2020 Olympic Games with her sights set on proving to the whole world that she has capitalised on her capabilities.

“The main purpose is to exploit my full potential,” Thibeault said. “That’s what you want to do when you’re in sport, right? To be able to exploit your full potential, and very few get to do that.”

With that being said, Thibeault also has dreams to reach the pinnacle of boxing.

“I want to bring a gold medal home for Canada and I want to be the first woman to do it,” she said.

As it currently stands, no Canadian woman has ever won a medal in the event since the sport was added to the Olympics in 2012, putting Thibeault, who won a bronze medal at the 2019 world championships, in a prime position to make history.

Thibeault's love for boxing comes from her father, Patrick, who has an impressive athletic background in his own right. In 2001, Patrick won the Vanier Cup while playing university football at St Mary’s in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Afterwards, he was drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL and spent three seasons with the team as a slotback.

Tammara Thibeault picked up her love of boxing as a child after watching her father Patrick compete. (Tammara Thibeault)
Tammara Thibeault picked up her love of boxing as a child after watching her father Patrick compete. (Tammara Thibeault)

When he was finished playing football, Patrick took up boxing. Unbeknownst to him at the time, his decision to put on the boxing gloves would also inspire his daughter to do the same.

"Growing up [Patrick] was an athlete, like I am now,” Thibeault said. "I always looked up to him. One time, I saw him box, like my dad was competing for a while, and my mom brought all of us kids to this little town of Swift Current. It was the first time I saw my dad compete and he just lit this guy up. I just thought it was so cool.

"I just remember being like, 'I don’t know how, but I want to do that.' It might be a little weird for a nine-year-old girl to think that, but I just thought it looked so empowering and it looked really cool. I always looked up to my dad, he’s a hard worker and he excelled in his own sport, and I really admired that."

On the other hand, Thibeault's mother, Judeline, wasn’t as receptive to her daughter's career choice when she first chose boxing.

“I don’t like to see her boxing,” Judeline said. “At first, I tried to [tell her], ‘If you stop boxing, maybe I can buy you this.’ I tried to find other activities for her, but that’s her passion, so I mean I have to go behind her and support her.

“The first time I really realised that boxing was her real passion was when she came back from the [2018] Commonwealth Games in Australia. She came back, two black eyes, big nose, and she was smiling like it was the best day of her life," she continued. "As a mum, I was proud, but at the same time I was so mad at the other girl because she hurt [Tammara].”

Thibeault, left, took home bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. (Getty Images)
Thibeault, left, took home bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. (Getty Images)

Despite boxing not being Judeline’s first choice for Tammara, there’s no question she fully supports her daughter.

“As soon as I realised that was her passion, go for it, and don’t stop until you reach your goal,” she said. “Not mine, not your coach, your goal. And we just support her with that.”

Growing up, Thibeault describes herself as “an intense kid,” and that same intensity has trickled into her everyday life.

For starters, she is fluent in three languages: English, French and Spanish. Being born in St Georges, Quebec, English and French were languages she was taught from a young age, but it was her determination and dedication to learn Spanish that really impressed her family.

Thibeault has learned to channel her competitiveness and intensity in her pursuits outside of the boxing ring. (AFP/Getty Images)
Thibeault has learned to channel her competitiveness and intensity in her pursuits outside of the boxing ring. (AFP/Getty Images)

“I saw her at my kitchen table ordering books, a Spanish book on Amazon,” Patrick said. “That day she decided she was learning Spanish, and she’s fluent in Spanish, French and English now, and that all comes down to all this, that work ethic and that talent.”

Additionally, Thibeault has been a vegetarian since 2018. It’s a decision that requires a lot of discipline and self-restraint, especially for someone her parents said "was a carnivore" growing up. But both Thibeault and her parents have noticed great improvements in her boxing since she made the dietary change.

Thibeault, 24, will be competing in her first-ever Olympics, and it's all of the things her parents instilled in her — passion, hard work, intensity and discipline — that will help guide her through the biggest stage in sports.

And never forgetting that the sky’s the limit.

Watch: Olympic star hopes her 17-year journey will end in gold

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Elodie Clouvel: Olympic star hopes her 17-year journey will end in gold

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