By Jeff Hicks
The Argentina trip is cancelled.
But Mandy Bujold won’t fret over a sudden change in travel plans, not with the coronavirus pandemic threatening public health around the world.
Waterloo Region’s community champion is choosing to look at today’s stunning suspension of The Road to Tokyo Americas qualifying tournament as a boxing blessing in disguise.
From a strictly sports perspective, delaying the event until it can be relocated can be viewed as a positive.
“I’m taking this as an opportunity,” said Mandy on Wednesday as the fluid flyweight prepared to spar with Texas-born featherweight Rianna Rios at the SydFit Health Centre.
“We’ll just keep working on the things we’re working on. It just gives us more time to perfect those things. I’ll be ready when the qualifier is going to happen.”
And that’s still to be determined.
All that’s certain is that the March 26-April 3 Olympics qualifier is called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. Argentina’s government has restricted all international events as a precaution. Public health is understandably a priority.
So Mandy won’t be travelling to Buenos Aires in a few weeks to earn a spot in the Summer Olympics after all. The boxing task force of the International Olympic Committee is working on what happens next with the qualifying tournament, seeking “the best solution”.
“Maybe there’s some way they can find a new location and push it back,” Mandy said. “Maybe there’s a country that’s willing to have everyone travel in.”
There is precedent. The Asia and Oceania qualifier was originally to be held in February in Wuhan, the origin of the initial virus outbreak. That event was held to Jordan this week.
Bujold, an Olympian in Rio in 2016, aims to be the first female Canadian boxer to appear in two straight Olympics. The news doesn’t change that. Her path to Japan is simply being re-drawn
“We just have to wait until we hear a bit more information.” Mandy said. “That’s the tough part. You’re in limbo, wondering if it’s going to happen in two weeks or in two months from now. It changes what you do with your training.”
Mandy is determined to roll with whatever punches come her way with a suddenly uncertain schedule. She spoke with coach Syd Vanderpool on Wednesday and had a chat with her sports psychologist Kim Dawson. Steady as she goes, they agreed.
“For us, it’s just business as usual,” Mandy said. “We continue to train.”
Mandy woke up from her post-training nap Wednesday afternoon to find her phone filled with messages. One was from Boxing Canada technical director Daniel Trepanier.
“I knew right away something was up,” Mandy said.
But adapting your strategy to sudden twists and turns is one of the strengths of the 11-time national champ. The schedule can slip her for now. But it can’t escape.
“We’re not the only people in this situation. All the girls I would have competed against in Argentina are in the same situation. They’re trying to figure out how to adapt their training.”
Mandy has already done that. The first move was to duck any negativity.
“Times like this, you want to take that situation and turn it into a positive. If you can control the controllable, you’re going to come out on top.”