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Canadian boxer inspires at Guelph Youth Symposium

Mandy Bujold, Canadian boxer, spoke to students about overcoming obstacles and meeting their goals

When Mandy Bujold started boxing many coaches didn’t want to work with women.

The Kitchener native was in the gym one day training with a partner and a coach kicked her out of the ring. Bujold didn’t realize it was because she was a woman. Years later, the coach apologized and admitted he wasn’t used to coaching women.

This was the first time she remembers being treated differently because of her gender. She knew early on this was one of many obstacles she was going to have to overcome.

Bujold took students behind the scenes of how she won her prestigious boxing titles at the 2024 Youth Symposium to get them inspired to achieve their goals.

This is the first time since 2019 the symposium has been held by the Child Witness Centre.

The Child Witness Centre provides support for youth and their families as they go through the criminal justice system. It services Guelph, Wellington County and Waterloo Region. 

The three-day Youth Symposium aims to inspire Grade 8 students to reach their full potential by showcasing a variety of speakers with lived experiences. The event expects to see more than 3,000 students over three days. The first day of the event held in Guelph at Galaxy Cinemas had more than 800 students join.

“We are so excited to be back in the saddle and doing Youth Symposium again,” said Robin Heald, executive director of the Child Witness Centre, in an interview. 

The event is for Grade 8 students since it’s the grade just before they head into high school and they want to equip them with tools to prevent them from dropping out.

“Get people excited and ignited for their future,” she said.

Who better to do that than Bujold, an Olympic boxer and an eleven time Canadian champion.

She was one of nine presenters at the event on Tuesday. 

“I didn’t like getting hit, believe it or not,” said Bujold in her presentation. She was first interested in boxing when her brothers picked up the sport. Although she didn’t start boxing then, she knew it was something she wanted to do.

Bujold started boxing 15 years ago. It took her 13 years to qualify for her first Olympic games.

To get there she took on a growth mindset to see how far she could push herself and the sport to break barriers.

She asked the audience if they had goals and the majority of the Grade 8 students put up their hands. To make their goals a reality she told them to write their goals down the old fashioned way with a pen and paper. 

When Bujold trains for a competition this is what she writes on paper “I am 51 kilo Canadian national champion.”

She visualizes herself in a position to win as she’s training.

During the Rio Olympics in 2016, her first time qualifying for the Olympics she got sick with a tourist virus. While sick in the hospital no one knew if she would be able to make it to the competition that day. She did. Although she didn’t have a lot of energy she focused on being mentally prepared.

She remembered what her sport psychologist told her, “It’s not about what happens to you that counts, it’s about how you react that matters.”

Although she didn’t win during the quarterfinals she still made it into the ring.

Bujold showed the audience a clip of the boxing game that helped make history as the only female boxer to win back-to-back gold medals in the Pan American Games.

The crowd erupted in applause after seeing Bujold win.

Her fight doesn’t stop there. How athletes qualified for the Olympics changed for the Tokyo Olympics that was pushed to 2021 because of the pandemic. To qualify, a committee chose three random events from 11 months that were not supposed to be qualifying games and picked qualifiers based on those events.

Bujold had missed those three events since she was pregnant with her daughter Kate. She wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee about how the qualifying process discriminates against people based on their sex. Nothing changed so she took it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and won the appeal.

It set the precedent for women in sports so in the future accommodations can be made for athletes who were pregnant or postpartum during qualifying events.

She knows women face obstacles in their lives and in sports too. “Not allowing things to become barriers” has been a big part of the journey, she said, in an interview.

The 2024 Youth Symposium continues tomorrow and Thursday in Waterloo.


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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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