A boxer who missed the Olympic qualification because she was pregnant has won one of her biggest fights – competing at this summer’s Tokyo Games.
Mandy Bujold, an 11-time Canadian champion, will be in Japan after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) ruled in her favor.
Bujold secured gold at the Canadian Qualifiers in December 2019 and appeared to be competing in his second Olympics, but the last qualifying event in America earlier this year had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the wake of this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its boxing force said qualification would be decided at three events from 2018 and 2019, when the flight weight Bujold was on maternity leave.
“We looked at how it would affect me and thought it was not fair,” she told the BBC. “I was left out because these events were chosen retroactively as qualifying events.
Of all the struggles I have prepared for in my career, I never thought the battle for gender equality would be the most difficult.
“It was one of the biggest fights of my career, but also the fight with the most meaning. I stood up for what I think is right and for what I had worked so hard for.”
As a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist and two-time Pan-American champion who was fifth at the 2016 Olympics, Bujold thought writing to the IOC after its initial decision would be enough for a heartbeat.
But when the request was denied, she took her case to Cas, and on Wednesday it revealed that it had spoken in her favor, saying the qualification criteria should include accommodation for women who were pregnant or on maternity leave during the qualification period.
“This is definitely a start to something bigger,” she said. “This is something that, for the time being, is passed on to the next generation. It represents much more than a medal or a place.”
Bujold is now finishing his preparations for the games, which begin on July 23.
“The fact that I was away with my pregnancy and got back to the level that I did means I probably have a lot more experience with the big break than many other athletes,” she said. “But we have not been able to enter the ring to compete.
“However, prepare for [the legal fight], the nerves, the anxiety, the adrenaline … it was probably as close to a boxing match as you can get. “
Tokyo will be Bujold’s last competition as she plans to retire this year, and she is proud that her two-year-old daughter will be able to see her.
“I wanted her to be here and be a part of the moment, even if she doesn’t quite understand what’s going on,” she said.
“It’s so important for her to see what’s going on. The biggest message, if you have a dream or a goal, is to keep pushing for it.”
The BBC has approached the IOC for comment.