TORONTO, Ont. – Mandy Bujold is not physically intimidating, but she knows how to stand up for herself. Her slight, 112-lb frame doesn’t worry many people on the street, but in the boxing ring her speed, agility and determination have helped her become Canada’s top female flyweight amateur boxer for eight years running. She’s set her sights on the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Bujold grew up in a Christian home and says her faith helps her boxing. “It helps me stay positive,” says Bujold. “I have little ritual things I do. I always bring my Bible [to the ring], that helps me relax. When I’m preparing and trying to focus, I pray.”
Boxing is one of the sports where public displays of faith are not only allowed, they’re common. Why is that? Bujold can only guess. “Because it’s a one-on-one combat sport, you have to have faith in something or faith that you have protection when you get in the ring.”
Bujold says she commonly sees people praying and reading their Bibles before a match, everywhere she goes. “People will get on one knee in the corner [to pray] before the fight starts. . . . Anything can happen. It’s a high intensity sport and you want to be one hundred percent protected.”
When asked what drew her to boxing, Bujold can’t pinpoint a reason. She admits that she wasn’t much of an athlete in high school and joined a recreational boxing class simply for the workout. That recreational boxing class changed everything. “I had my first competition and [knew] this is absolutely what I wanted to do,” Bujold said. “Started having more competitions and never looked back.”
Fellowship of Christian athletes
Bujold is training hard for the upcoming Pan American (Pan Am) Games in Toronto in July. While men’s boxing has been a part of the Pan Am Games since it began in 1951, women’s boxing wasn’t introduced until the 2011 Guadalajara Games in Mexico where Bujold won gold in the women’s flyweight class. Training six to eight hours a day, six days a week, Bujold is excited to defend her gold medal in front of a home crowd.
At the Pan Am Games, women’s boxing consists of four rounds of two minutes each (compared to the men’s three rounds of three minutes each), and while the men are no longer required to wear protective head gear, the women are.
When asked if her training will change to prepare for the Olympics, Bujold says the only thing that changes is who they meet in the ring. “You still have to put all the time and work in no matter what event you’re training for.”
Bujold is quick to point out that amateur boxing is not the same as professional boxing. “We’re not getting paid to fight,” Bujold said, adding that the professional boxing has an entertainment factor not present in amateur sport. She says boxing isn’t as dangerous as it appears and that head injuries are rare.
“We know what’s coming at us and we’re prepared for that,” says Bujold. “You don’t usually take a good clean shot . . . and [unlike other contact sports] no one comes at me from behind.” Just touching an opponent’s punch deflects much of the power before it connects.
With her hectic travel schedule, living in Toronto while her family and fiancé are in Kitchener, Bujold said the travel is hard on her faith but is able to make it work because of great support at home.
Being a part of the larger Christian community of athletes, however, is a great perk. “At major games they have a chaplain and do services,” says Bujold, who’s competed around the world including South Korea, Scotland and Mexico. “It’s fun to get together with people from other nations and sing all the same songs. To walk into a church and have that kind of fellowship is extra special.”
After the Pan Am Games, Bujold will continue training for the Rio Olympics. Does her training schedule allow for much personal time? “It is tough when you’re training full time,” Bujold says, and goes on to give her family credit for her success. “You need that support system, and no matter what I’m doing they’re there encouraging me along the way.”
All boxing events at the Pan Am Games will take place in Oshawa, Ontario.
‘More Than Gold’ connects churches and athletes
The Pan Am Games are coming to Toronto between July 10-26 and the Para Pan Am Games between August 7-15. More Than Gold is a non-for-profit group that coordinates the local churches and church volunteers at large sporting events and has been present at Commonwealth Games, Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games, All-Africa Games, Indian Ocean Games, Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup events.
More Than Gold has been busy promoting the upcoming Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games in Toronto and asking for volunteers for a year now. Sarah Chaudery is a former Canadian Olympian and the Director of Operations for More Than Gold. “Let’s be known for our famous Canadian hospitality,” Chaudery says.
What other time can churches engage with 10,000 athletes and coaches from 41 countries? “This is the largest multi-sport event to come to Toronto since 1930,” said Chaudery. “This is a great way to engage your community and invite people out to church.”
More Than Gold is hoping to contribute 3,000 volunteers and involve 500-700 churches in the GTA and Golden Horseshoe Area. In total, games organizers are looking for 20,000 volunteers and estimate this will be the largest call for volunteers in Canadian peace time. There are a variety of ways for churches to get involved, from hosting athletes’ families to setting up big screen festivals in parking lots to acting as interpreters.
All volunteer and Ministry Team registrations are online at MoreThanGold2015.ca. For those wishing to volunteer, email ac.5102dlognahterom@sreetnulov. You can follow More Than Gold on Facebook at facebook.com/morethangold2015 or on Twitter @MTG_2015.
More Than Gold is still looking for games pastors, water station volunteers, photographers and “prayer relay” participants.