KITCHENER — It will take a long time before the sting from sitting out the 2012 Summer Olympics fades away for Kitchener’s Mandy Bujold.
But what may burn more is that it appears the 24-year-old boxer’s Olympic hopes were sacrificed by her own sports’ national federation to improve the chances of Canada’s boxing golden girl, Mary Spencer.
Bujold, the seven-time national champion, found out Monday morning she wasn’t chosen by an Olympic tripartite committee as a wild card in the 51-kg weight division — a nod that would have sent her to the first Olympics to include women’s boxing.
That wild card honour went to a lower-ranked boxer, Brazil’s Erica Matos, a fighter Bujold beat on her way to winning gold at the 2011 Pan American Games. Also awarded a wild card was Windsor’s Spencer, who, like Bujold, failed to earn a berth for London at the world championships in China last month.
But even more puzzling is Boxing Canada’s admission that Bujold wasn’t in the running for a wild card, anyway. Instead, they submitted the fighter’s name in a category designed for developing countries that had sent six or fewer athletes to the last Olympics.
By definition, that meant Bujold was ineligible for consideration. Robert Crete, executive director of Boxing Canada, said the move was only done to appease her coach. Quebec’s Sandra Bizier, Canada’s 60-kg champion, was also submitted in the same tripartite category.
Bujold, who spent the past month anxiously wondering if she’d be going to the Olympics, said she feels she was deliberately misled.
“I really feel let down by Canada,” she said. “Right now, I just feel kind of numb. I don’t know what to think . . . This just doesn’t make sense.”
Crete admitted that Bujold had no chance at being chosen as a so-called tripartite candidate, a category for developing countries intended to increase global representation at the Games.
“We informed their coaches that they do not meet the criteria. But at the request of their coaches, we submitted them anyway,” he said. “For argument’s purposes, we said we’d submit your name, and we did.”
Boxing Canada had already decided that Spencer would be Canada’s best medal hope at the Olympics, he said. Submitting Bujold as a wild card candidate, even though they fight in different weight categories, would only complicate things for Spencer, he said.
“We backed Mary Spencer. Her background, her experience, her pedigree, made her a shoo-in for the wild card,” Crete said. “Obviously, if you look at the international record of Mary compared to the two other athletes, Mary outshined them.”
Bujold feels betrayed by her own federation and questioned the politics that surrounded the sometimes murky process for choosing the extra fighters for the Olympics. It created a weekslong emotional roller-coaster, with multiple deadlines for decisions that came and went, leaving the Forest Heights grad in a frustrating limbo.
Brazil’s Matos is ranked 22nd in the world in the 51-kg class, while Bujold is ranked 19th, according to the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association. Her selection means there’s three female fighters from Brazil going to the Olympics, to Canada’s one.
Bujold’s coach, Rich Cadilha, was left fuming over the decision by Boxing Canada not to back Bujold’s hopes to be a wild card.
He said he was under the impression Bujold was in the running for a wild card, and he was “totally baffled” by the federation’s handling of the issue. Since the ban on women’s boxing at the Olympics was lifted in August 2009, the pair had been training and competing relentlessly with the hopes of representing Canada in London.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow right now. This was a lot of work, a lot of planning to get here,” he said. “I think someone at the federation dropped the ball. . . . I don’t know who’s telling me the truth, but at the end of the day, nothing can be changed.”
Bujold, meanwhile, found out she wasn’t going to the Olympics through Twitter. She spent the morning informing her supporters, then went for a workout at the gym.
Now, she’s forced to reset her goals to four years down the road, to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’ve got to put this behind me now. It’s done and it’s over with,” she said. “I’ve just got to get back in the gym and focus on a new goal.”