Summer Sports·SUNDAY READ

Kim Gaucher, Mandy Bujold blaze trail for future generations of Olympian moms

Within hours on Wednesday, justice was served. Tokyo organizers ruled Olympians like Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher could bring newborns to the Games, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold was indeed qualified to box at the Olympics.

'It was just a really good day for women in sport today,' says Gaucher

Team Canada basketball player Kim Gaucher is pictured with her daughter Sophie outside of Vancouver International Airport earlier in June. On Wednesday, the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced Olympians would be allowed to bring newborns like Sophie to Japan. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Kim Gaucher was left to decide between her infant daughter and the Olympics.

Mandy Bujold was left with no decision at all; when Olympic qualification was revised due to the pandemic, the 2019 Canadian boxing champion missed out, having not competed in the new time period due to her pregnancy.

But within hours on Wednesday, justice was served. Tokyo organizers ruled Olympians could bring newborns to the Games, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Bujold was indeed qualified to box at the Olympics.

"To all of the working moms out there who have had to fight this fight before, I think it was just a really good day for women in sport today," Gaucher said on Wednesday, one day after she was officially named to Canada's Olympic basketball roster.

Bujold said her fight was the most difficult of her career.

"In 2021 I didn't ever think I would have to fight this battle. I can say that this has been one of the biggest fights of my career, but also the fight with the most meaning. I was standing up for what I believe is right and for the dream that I had worked so hard for," Bujold said. 

"And I'm so proud that we've set human rights precedent for female athletes now and for future generations to come."

WATCH | Bujold speaks about victorious legal battle:

Canadian boxer Bujold says 'sky is the limit for all women' after winning legal bout with IOC

3 months ago
5:40
Watch boxer Mandy Bujold of Kitchener, Ont., read her statement after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Olympic qualification criteria must include an accommodation for women who were pregnant or postpartum during the qualification period, paving the way for Bujold to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. 5:40

The International Olympic Committee in recent years began working toward more gender equality. In February, it cited 49 per cent female participation in Tokyo, calling the 2021 Games the first to be gender-equal.

Since then, the head of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, resigned over sexist comments saying women talk too much in meetings, and both Bujold's and Gaucher's cases were brought to light.

Mori was replaced by Seiko Hashimoto, a 56-year-old Olympic medallist in women's speed skating. Hashimoto is also a mother to three children, and three more step-children.

Japan ranks 121st of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum's global gender gap index.

Message to next generation

Now, Bujold and Gaucher have won, in essence, the right to compete at the Olympics as a mom. Both seemingly easy decisions, with unnecessary stress added to the athletes' plates.

"This decision can give hope to young, aspiring athletes around the world, knowing that they don't have to decide between an Olympic dream and starting a family," Bujold said.

Bujold's daughter Kate is two years old, while Gaucher is still breast-feeding three-month-old daughter Sophie.
Both hope to use their fights to light the way for the next generation.

"Being a mom is really hard, but it's also one of the best jobs that I could have. When I started this whole thing, when I said I wanted to come back for the Olympics, I wanted to be able to inspire not just future young Canadian basketball players, but my daughter Sophie, to be able to tell her that I gave it my all," Gaucher, 37 of Mission, B.C., said.

WATCH | Gaucher, Bujold allowed to compete at Olympics:

Basketball player Kim Gaucher and boxer Mandy Bujold to compete in Tokyo Olympics

3 months ago
2:04
Two female Canadian athletes have won their battles to be allowed to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. Star boxer Mandy Bujold and basketball player Kim Gaucher are both young mothers who had been prevented from going for that reason. 2:04

For Bujold, it was about blazing a trail for women across sports.

"I owe it to myself, I owe it to other women, and most importantly, I owe it to my daughter. Never for one moment do I want her to feel as though her dreams or choices are limited because she's a woman. The sky is the limit for all women and for my daughter," the 33-year-old boxer said.

It is also significant in Bujold's case that her battle was settled in sport's highest court, perhaps setting a precedent for future mothers who also wish to fulfill a lifelong Olympic dream.

Discrimination

Sylvie Rodrigue, Bujold's lawyer, said it was a case of discrimination. 

"The discrimination arose out of retroactively selecting events that were never supposed to be qualifying events held during an 11-month period during which female athletes may have been pregnant or postpartum without providing for an accommodation for these female athletes," Rodrigue said. 

"Pregnancy is not an injury. It's not an illness. The violation of a protected human right elevated Mandy's situation to a completely different level, one that warranted the intervention of the court."

Bujold will now surely head to her second Olympics following a fifth-place finish at Rio 2016.

Gaucher, meanwhile, is headed for her third Games, one of three players on the recently-named roster set to triple-dip.

That leaves Gaucher as an experienced leader and crucial member of a team hoping to win Canada's first-ever women's Olympic basketball medal. The men have won one, taking silver at the 1936 Berlin Games.

Current women's basketball star Kia Nurse said she was ecstatic Gaucher had her path paved to Tokyo.

"She was already a superhero in my eyes but now as a working mom she's even more and so I'm very excited that she's able to come and that it's a comfortable situation for everyone and that Sophie and [husband] Ben [Gaucher] can join as well," Nurse said.

Women won 16 of Canada's 22 medals at the Rio Olympics, and there's a decent chance that percentage only increases in Tokyo.

Thanks to Bujold and Gaucher fighting and winning their cases, that women's dominance could continue for generations to come.

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