THINK­ING OUT­SIDE THE RING

Mandy Bu­jold has more than box­ing to keep her busy these days

Grand Magazine - - CONTENTS - BY LYNN HADDRALL

Mandy Bu­jold has more than box­ing to keep her busy these days

They jab play­fully with words, Olympian Mandy Bu­jold and fire­fighter hus­band Reid McIver, talk­ing about the life they share. The same play­ful­ness leaps from their wed­ding and en­gage­ment pho­to­graphs. McIver lifts his bride over his shoul­der with a clas­sic fire­fighter move. Bu­jold, the boxer, pre­tends to launch McIver into the sky with a pow­er­ful punch.

It’s a re­fresh­ing vibe at odds with the in­ten­sity of their lives, one a world-class ath­lete, the other a full-time life­saver. Per­haps it’s no sur­prise they met at a CrossFit gym in Kitch­ener while work­ing out.

McIver knew of the fe­male boxer who had achieved great things but didn’t re­al­ize who Bu­jold was when they first chat­ted. He in­vited her to go in­door climb­ing. “She came along and it blos­somed from there.”

Bu­jold joins the con­ver­sa­tion, adding an im­por­tant de­tail.

“He in­vited me to go rock climb­ing and then dis­ap­peared for six weeks,” she says, laugh­ing. “I was like ‘Oh, you are still alive?’ ”

McIver laughs too. “Oh yeah, that’s right. I got in­jured, my shoul­der or some­thing. I just took some time off from work­ing out to heal.”

When they next met he apol­o­gized for not get­ting her phone num­ber. “The rest is his­tory,” Bu­jold says.

The boxer mar­ried the fire­fighter last sum­mer af­ter five years to­gether. They are ex­pect­ing their first baby in the fall.

McIver, 34, grew up in the Bruce Penin­sula and loves to hike, boat and fish.

He has been a fire­fighter for 10 years and works out of the Strasburg and Ot­tawa sta­tion in Kitch­ener.

Bu­jold, 30, was born in Port Hope and lived in Monc­ton, N.B., be­fore mov­ing with her fam­ily to Kitch­ener. Her am­a­teur box­ing ca­reer took her to about 40 coun­tries, rack­ing up na­tional and in­ter­na­tional wins.

Life has brought ma­jor changes for Bu­jold, bet­ter known for jabs and hooks than the foodie sen­si­bil­ity she shares with her hus­band. They ren­o­vated their kitchen to ac­com­mo­date their cook­ing hobby.

“I love to try new things,” McIver says, list­ing yummy recipes. “Yes­ter­day was lemon chicken with co­conut cur­ried quinoa and then some roasted cau­li­flower, just some­thing new and healthy.”

McIver fol­lows a recipe bet­ter than Bu­jold but both like to ex­per­i­ment. “We both love food,” she says. “That’s part of the rea­son why we re-did our kitchen. We spent so much time in the kitchen that we might as well have a kitchen that we love.”

Bu­jold has stepped back from her in­tense train­ing but still works out at TNT Box­ing and Fit­ness Academy in Guelph. She works full-time at Com­mu­nitech and is giv­ing her­self un­til the end of the year to de­cide if she will train to com­pete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The 11-time na­tional fly­weight cham­pion has much to cel­e­brate in a box­ing ca­reer that started when she was a girl want­ing to box like her brother. Very few women were train­ing in her early days at Water­loo Re­gional Box­ing Academy.

“I asked a girl at school to come with me be­cause I was a lit­tle ner­vous; there weren’t that many women in the box­ing gym. Once I walked in there, I was OK and com­fort­able with it. Walk­ing up those old creaky stairs and go­ing into this male-dom­i­nated world was a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing for me at 16.”

Bu­jold fell in love with the sport de­spite not con­sid­er­ing her­self par­tic­u­larly ath­letic. She had never played a team sport but had dab­bled in twirling a ba­ton and in artis­tic gym­nas­tics.

“It wasn’t un­til I found box­ing that I re­al­ized there was some­thing about how hard you had to work and just con­stantly try to im­prove; it’s like you could never re­ally per­fect it. I wanted to per­fect it, but I couldn’t, and I think that’s what drove me.”

A hand­ful of fe­male box­ers in the gym in­spired Bu­jold.

“There were two or three girls then, and they were at a re­ally high level. I re­mem­ber look­ing and think­ing: I want to be that girl.”

Donna Man­cuso was one of those box­ers. She’s an in­spec­tor today with the Water­loo Re­gional Po­lice. She re­mem­bers Bu­jold as a tal­ented young wo­man who worked the hard­est in the gym.

“She al­ways had that spark, like you knew that she had that de­ter­mi­na­tion. She was driven, very driven. You just knew that she was some­body, if she set her mind to some­thing, you could tell that she was go­ing to do it.”

Man­cuso was a po­lice of­fi­cer when she boxed. When she left the sport, she was at the high­est level a fe­male boxer could achieve. She had rep­re­sented Canada in­ter­na­tion­ally and her re­sumé in­cluded a bronze medal from the in­au­gu­ral women’s world cham­pi­onships in 2001. “It can be dif­fi­cult (to move on) be­cause you work so hard and it de­fines you to some ex­tent,” says Man­cuso. “It wasn’t so abrupt for me be­cause I had al­ready had a ca­reer of full-time em­ploy­ment so that prob­a­bly made my tran­si­tion a lot eas­ier. . . .

You miss the com­pe­ti­tion and you miss the peo­ple.”

Bu­jold knows the tran­si­tion is com­ing and she is preparing. She grad­u­ated from a busi­ness pro­gram at Con­estoga Col­lege and has been study­ing part time at the Univer­sity of Water­loo to at­tain a bach­e­lor’s de­gree.

In her job as a busi­ness de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist at Com­mu­nitech, she uses her mar­ket­ing and brand­ing skills to help plan events such as the True North tech­nol­ogy con­fer­ence held in May.

“I think it’s a great place for me to make a tran­si­tion be­cause they have that flex­i­ble work en­vi­ron­ment and flex­i­ble sched­ule. My job is ex­actly what I did for my­self as an ath­lete. I was re­ally suc­cess­ful in get­ting a lot of spon­sor­ships and a lot of sup­port over the years. I think part of that was be­cause I ac­tu­ally knew how to build those re­la­tion­ships. I thought: I al­ready do this for my­self, now I’m just ba­si­cally do­ing it for Com­mu­nitech.”

Bu­jold is a fea­tured public speaker. She launched a YouTube chan­nel with train­ing tips. And she runs a high-per­for­mance men­tor­ship camp on the last week­end in July. It’s open to all ath­letes and in­cludes ses­sions with a sports psy­chol­o­gist, nu­tri­tion­ist and Olympian Alex Gen­est, a run­ner and steeplechase com­peti­tor.

As her box­ing ca­reer ad­vanced, Bu­jold moved from be­ing in­spired by other women to help­ing the next gen­er­a­tion. Kitch­ener boxer Danielle Ten Eyck credits Bu­jold with build­ing her con­fi­dence by tak­ing the time to reach out with words of en­cour­age­ment.

Bu­jold did not as­pire to be a role model, but she is con­scious of how she car­ries her­self in­side and out­side the ring.

“When you’re a cute girl in a male­dom­i­nated sport, they want you to ba­si­cally show it as a sex sym­bol. I’ve al­ways been very against that be­cause I know all these young girls are look­ing up to me and I want them to look up to me for the right rea­sons. I’m try­ing to show them that I’m be­ing re­spected for my sport and not for any­thing else.”

A life les­son she im­parts to young box­ers is the need to work through ad­ver­sity. There’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple than how Bu­jold han­dled her­self at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where her medal bid ended in dis­ap­point­ment.

Bu­jold con­tracted a stom­ach bug the night be­fore her quar­ter-fi­nal bout against China’s Ren Can­can. Af­ter years of train­ing, she ended up hooked to an in­tra­venous tube in a hospi­tal bed just hours be­fore the fight.

She com­pares it to a hor­ror movie. Doc­tors rushed to set­tle her stom­ach without giv­ing her any med­i­ca­tions that would make her drowsy or con­tra­vene Olympic drug rules. She lost sev­eral pounds in just a few hours.

“You fo­cus so much and you plan so much for that mo­ment. I kept think­ing of some­thing my old psy­chol­o­gist used to tell me – it’s not about what hap­pens to you that counts; it’s about how you re­act to what hap­pens to you that counts. I kept think­ing, I could be re­ally pissed off right now, or I can fo­cus my energy and keep it for when it’s go­ing to count, when I’m ac­tu­ally go­ing to step into the ring.”

Bu­jold ap­pre­ci­ates that qual­i­fy­ing for the Olympics is a big achievement. She missed that op­por­tu­nity in 2012 – the year women’s box­ing was added as a sport – when she was not cho­sen for the Cana­dian team. Get­ting to Brazil was a win in it­self. But she went there to com­pete; miss­ing the bout wasn’t an op­tion.

“There was noth­ing that was go­ing to stop me from get­ting in there. I didn’t care, cut my arm off, I was still get­ting in there.”

Watch­ing from the au­di­ence, McIver could see some­thing was wrong when Bu­jold en­tered the venue. He knew she had been ill but had not talked to her. She had texted her mother – “I’m sick, pray for me.”

“When she ac­tu­ally walked out of the tun­nel I was just like: Oh my God, you don’t look good,” re­calls McIver. “She was just green and usu­ally she comes bop­ping out like a bouncy ball. She just kind of

walked out, looked like she was just try­ing not to puke. I was a lit­tle bit scared be­cause it’s box­ing; it’s not like she’s in the triple jump where it’s her and sand. There is some­one try­ing to hit her.”

Bu­jold lost. She got big sup­port from fam­ily, friends and fans, but an Olympian com­petes to win a medal and this was a let­down for her.

“Ev­ery­one is say­ing it’s still very in­spir­ing, but it’s not the way I wanted to in­spire peo­ple. I wanted to have a medal around my neck. You imag­ine it a cer­tain way,” she says. “I had thought about that mo­ment ev­ery day of my life for the last 13 years.”

An­other chal­lenge was the loss of her long-time coach, Adrian Teodor­escu. He couldn’t be with her in Rio and died in Novem­ber 2016. He had kept his lym­phoma treat­ments a se­cret.

“That was def­i­nitely dif­fi­cult be­cause he was one of the best coaches in the world,” Bu­jold says. “I was lucky to spend the last four or five years of his life, lit­er­ally with him ev­ery sin­gle day. That also was tough for me to go from hav­ing that re­ally strong pos­i­tive coach-ath­lete re­la­tion­ship to the Olympics be­ing over. I don’t have this coach any­more who was kind of con­vinc­ing me to stick it out or maybe we’ll go for 2020 in a dif­fer­ent way.”

McIver smiles and mim­ics a Ro­ma­nian ac­cent to quote Teodor­escu: “We’ll get it in 2020, Mandy.”

That big Olympic de­ci­sion will come later this year, af­ter the cou­ple learns how the de­mands of par­ent­hood will im­pact their busy sched­ules.

“I don’t know what that’s go­ing to look like be­cause it’s ob­vi­ously a whole new thing for us,” says the mother-to-be. “We are su­per ex­cited and it’s go­ing to be a whole new ad­ven­ture. This is ob­vi­ously go­ing to be fac­tored into that de­ci­sion.”

Then she adds: “Ide­ally, I think that com­ing back af­ter this would give me mo­ti­va­tion to get back in shape.”

Time will tell. But for now, Bu­jold and McIver have a ro­bust life to ex­plore out­side the ring.

PHOTO BY ALISHA TOWNSEND

Mandy Bu­jold and her hus­band, Reid McIver, en­joy spend­ing time to­gether cook­ing in their Kitch­ener home. “That’s part of the rea­son why we re-did our kitchen,” she says. “We spent so much time in the kitchen that we might as well have a kitchen that we love.”

MAIN PHOTO BY ALISHA TOWNSEND WED­DING AND EN­GAGE­MENT PHO­TOS BY BEN KANE

Whether get­ting car­ried away last Au­gust on their wed­ding day or pre­tend­ing to land a body blow in an en­gage­ment photo, it’s clear box­ing champ Mandy Bu­jold has met her match in fire­fighter Reid McIver.

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