After a monthslong battle, Mandy Bujold is one step closer to participating in this summer’s Olympic boxing tournament.
At 6 a.m. Wednesday, Bujold’s lawyer called to tell her that she had won an appeal that would make her eligible to compete in Tokyo beginning in July. Her hopes were in jeopardy because of the pandemic and changes in the qualifying rules that effectively disqualified Bujold because she had a child.
Bujold’s quest to win an Olympic gold medal for Canada remains intact after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Wednesday that the qualification criteria created by the International Olympic Committee’s Boxing Task Force must include an accommodation for women who were pregnant or postpartum during the qualification period.
It’s not exactly clear what will happen next for Bujold, a 33-year-old flyweight, after winning her appeal. The ruling makes her eligible to compete in Tokyo, but her spot isn’t technically solidified yet.
Monday is the Canadian Olympic Committee’s deadline to register athletes for Tokyo, and Bujold said in an interview that her name would be on that list.
In April, the I.O.C. said boxers from the Americas would qualify for Tokyo based on their rankings at three tournaments from 2018 and 2019. Bujold, however, was either pregnant or postpartum during the 11-month period when those tournaments took place.
Bujold initially asked the I.O.C. to recognize her pre-pregnancy ranking — when she was No. 8 in the world and second in the Americas — but the committee denied that request, saying that making a concession might lead other athletes to ask for exceptions too. In her letter, which she sent in April, Bujold pleaded the case for herself and other women who might find themselves in the same position.
“These are things that do not affect a man. They don’t have to plan their career and sport around a pregnancy or around breastfeeding,” Bujold said, referring to a decision the I.O.C. made on Wednesday that will allow mothers to take their breastfeeding infants with them to the Olympics. The I.O.C. had previously prohibited family members from traveling with Olympians to Tokyo because of pandemic-related restrictions.
Kim Gaucher, a Canadian basketball player who publicly asked via Instagram for her infant daughter to be able to travel with her to Tokyo, said: “Women’s sport is evolving. And I think sometimes it just takes a little bit of time for everybody to get on the same page.”
Gaucher made the post last week after exhausting other efforts, including appeals. “Everyone says they’re on board, but nobody can do anything,” she said in her post.
Bujold said winning this appeal was more about setting a precedent than about her Olympic berth.
Her situation is one of many disputes between sports organizations and mothers who return to competing after giving birth.
In 2019, the Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix was one of several athletes who are mothers who openly criticized Nike for reducing the performance pay of women who had a child, forcing the company to end the financial penalties for pregnant women.
“Having a child is a blessing, and it shouldn’t be used against women in any way, shape or form,” Bujold said.
If she does end up competing in Tokyo, her last fight there will also be the last of her career. She’s an 11-time Canadian national champion and the winner of two Pan American Games titles. Bujold, the 2006 Canadian boxer of the year, also made a trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she was favored to win a medal before getting sick and losing in the quarterfinals.
After her career is over, Bujold said, she will be able to look back at this process and know that she stood up for what is right and later tell her daughter, who is 2 years old, that she doesn’t have to give up on her dreams just because she wants to have a family.
“I’ll be happy that this is my last fight in every sense of the word,” she said. “This has been a long process, mentally, physically, emotionally. I’ve been doing this for over 16 years. I have over 165 fights. This is a good moment for me to end my career on and to start a new chapter.”