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Mandy Bujold looking to make history in Tokyo

After giving birth to her first child, Bujold is balancing family life and training for this summer's Olympic games
mandy bujold
Kitchener's Mandy Bujold (left) is in the ring, with eyes on a spot on Canada's Olympic team in women's boxing. Mark Pare/KitchenerToday

It wasn't in the plans.

Even when she first discovered the sport, competitive boxing wasn't top of mind for Mandy Bujold.

"It was more of just wanting to learn the skill of being able to throw punches, to be honest," she said.

But flash forward to 2020, the Kitchener native has come a long way, competing to qualify for her second Olympic games later this summer in Tokyo, Japan.

So how did we get here?

About a year into her training, Bujold caught the bug, along with some encouragement from coaches and other athletes in the gym to at least give it a shot.

"I was hesitant at first, and then I just decided 'well, I got nothing to lose, so why not try it,'" she said, "I think right after the first one, that feel of adrenaline, I really just enjoyed it and I thought 'hey I'm pretty good at this, right, cause I was winning.'"

From there, came a junior national title in 2006 and she moved on to the senior division and took home a senior national championship in the 50kg weight class.

"Once I became a senior Canadian champion, it was really cool cause then you get to travel the world," she said.

"You get to then go to big competitions like the world championships and then there's always something to look forward to."

Bujold captured gold at the 2011 Pan American Games --- and again at the 2015 event in Toronto --- but there was another crown to chase when women's boxing became an Olympic competition at the 2012 games in London, England.

"I thought I was just going to go in 2012 and be done with my career," she said, "The fact I didn't make that first games was really hard on me, really frustrating."

"But I put in another four years, and then made it in 2016."

It was at the 2016 games that she fell in the quarterfinals, following a night where she was in hospital with an illness.

Since then, there's been a boom in the amount of women trying to qualify.

Bujold says there was only 12 girls in each weight class in past games, and now in her weight class, there's 26 gunning for their Olympic dreams.

"There's also been a couple more weight divisions added to out the competition a little bit," she said, "I think it's exciting, I think women's boxing is going to be very exciting in 2020."

The success for Bujold has come with new opportunities such as speaking engagements, and she isn't taking her status as a role model for granted.

"I feel very fortunate for sure, and definitely thinking about being a role model, it's something that's become more prevalent, especially with social media and stuff nowadays," she said.

"I take it very seriously, I've always been thinking in the back of my mind of the image that I put out there and what I want people to see or associate me or my brand with, so now it's even more important, having a daughter and knowing that she is going to be able to see all of the things that I've done in the future."

And while she has many looking up to her, Bujold says someone she admires is Katie Taylor, an Irish-born Olympic boxing champion in 2012 in the lightweight (60kg) division.

"Her boxing style, her charisma, the way she is in and out of the ring," Bujold says, "She's just an amazing athlete, an amazing person so I've always watched her and looked up to her throughout my career."

Taylor, like Bujold, fell in the quarter-finals at the 2016 games.  Taylor's loss came at the hands of Mira Potkonen, who went on to take bronze for Finland at 60kg.

Bujold's road to Olympic gold goes through Argentina in March, where she will have to place in the top four of the competition to qualify.

But a couple years ago, the idea didn't seem like it would be in the cards, after indicating she didn't think she'd be on this journey after getting married in 2017 and giving birth to her daughter Kate in 2018.

"But here I am, post-pregnancy, having Kate, and now I feel stronger than ever," she said.

"I'm looking forward to trying to make history, becoming the first Canadian female boxer to do two Olympic games."

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