Mandy Bujold desperate for Olympic medal after 4 agonizing years
Missing London was 'one of the hardest moments' for Canadian boxer
By Callum Ng, CBC Sports
Women's boxing appeared at the Olympic Games for the first time four years ago in London, and Mandy Bujold wanted to be there.
But she wasn't.
Bujold didn't qualify, despite feeling as though she belonged in the 12-woman field.
"I felt like for sure I should have been there," she said. "I knew 100 per cent that I was number one in my continent and they said it was going to be the top two that went. So I definitely knew I should have been there. I had beaten a lot of the girls that were there," she said.
The springy 5-foot-3 native of Kitchener, Ont., was the 2011 Pan American Games champion in the 51-kilogram category. But a loss in the first round at 2012 world championships, which doubled as an Olympic qualifier, extinguished her chances of going to London.
"That was one of the hardest moments of my life," she said. "It was tough. I really had to re-think whether or not I wanted to focus another four years on boxing and just dedicate as much as I've dedicated. For me it's either 100 per cent or nothing."
In the end, Bujold decided to return to the sport she'd be working at since age 16. She called it a "tough decision."
But the surreal feeling of seeing an Olympics unfold without her has driven Bujold ever since. After London she changed coaches, to Adrian Teodorescu at Atlas Boxing Club in Toronto, who coached Lennox Lewis to his 1988 Olympic gold medal.
"I didn't want to leave any stone unturned and I wanted to make sure that I did everything possible to make sure that it wasn't in anyone else's hands other than my hands," said Bujold.
"It's made me stronger and it's made this qualifier and this Olympic session that much more special for me because I've had to work that much harder to get there."
Bujold broke through at the 2015 Pan Am Games with a narrow victory over American world champion Marlen Esparza, in the gold-medal final. Esparza was also a bronze medallist from the London Olympics.
While the 12-boxer field for Rio does not include Esparza, who failed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, it does include Bujold this time.
The 29-year-old earned her Olympic entry by winning the American Continental Qualifier in March. She has also been vocal about her sport, slamming the international boxing federation for its recent decision to allow pros in the Olympics.
Now she wants an Olympic medal. There are four medals given out in boxing because a bronze is given to each semifinal loser, to avoid the additional injury risk of another bout.
In simple terms, the odds of winning a medal are one in three.
"For me that's the goal I'm setting for myself. So if everyone else is thinking the same thing then that's cool too. But no, I'm not trying to think about it as pressure. It's really just one fight at a time," she said.
"It's going to be the Olympics these girls are all going to be 100 per cent prepared so it's going to come down to who's the best boxer at that event. So yeah I'm really looking forward to it."
The second-ever women's Olympic boxing event runs Aug. 12 to 21.