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Bujold, Canadian teammates in isolation after training cut short due to COVID-19 case

Finally back training with teammates for the first time in months, and with an Olympic qualifying date set, boxer Mandy Bujold could see light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally back training with teammates for the first time in months, and with an Olympic qualifying date set, boxer Mandy Bujold could see light at the end of the tunnel.

But Canada's 11-time flyweight boxing champion and 18 of her teammates are in isolation after national team training in Montreal was cut short this week due to a positive COVID-19 test.

"It definitely stops momentum in the sense of everything was going really well in training and you start working towards something and you keep building on that," Bujold said. "So, now obviously, not being allowed to be with my coach, or my training partners or anything like that, you're really limited on what you can really do when you're by yourself. 

"In that sense it's tough."

The 33-year-old Bujold said she was in close contact on Monday with an athlete who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. That athlete's identity hasn't been revealed. Bujold has tested negative twice since, but quarantine protocols stipulate she must isolate for 14 days from the date of contact.

Bujold said the boxers were working in small groups in Montreal. 

She drove home to Kitchener, Ont., on Wednesday and is staying in a friend's empty house there. 

“It's not fun but I guess it's part of the process," Bujold said. "It's unfortunate the camp ended early. We didn't get to do the test matches and the things we went there to do."

A Boxing Canada spokesperson said they were informed of a positive COVID-19 test result at training on Monday, immediately halted all team activities and are awaiting further test results.  

"This is an unfortunate situation," the spokesperson said in an email. "However we were able to act immediately due to the protocols in place to ensure everyone's health and safety.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, health and safety remains our top priority, and we are hoping for best case scenario for all athletes, coaches and support staff ahead of the Olympics."

It's the latest setback for Bujold and her Canadian teammates, who have yet to clinch spots in the Tokyo Olympics. Combat sports have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic because of tighter protocols.  

But things were looking up after the continental qualifiers, scrapped last March due to the global pandemic, were finally rescheduled earlier this week for May 10-16 in Argentina.

"At beginning of the week, when we finally got the announcement for the qualifiers, the energy and intensity changed and you knew, OK, this is the build-up, this is the moment," Bujold said. "As you prepare for events, your body just kind of knows when to turn it on. I was feeling really good." 

It's a great lesson in how quickly things can go sideways in a global pandemic, Bujold said.

"If this would have happened right before qualifying that would have been the worst possible case. Or even if it was a week before, and then you just can't even leave the country, right?" she said. "It just really opened my eyes to OK, when we do go back to our normal training, even in our small little bubble, that we do have to take extra precautions, because you just have no idea, it just comes so quickly."

Isolation makes training difficult, although Bujold feels fortunate that her friend's house has a treadmill. The boxing team is also doing bodyweight workouts virtually. 

Bujold added the toughest part is being unable to see her husband Reid or daughter Kate Olympia. 

She plans to spend part of her time in isolation working on strategy for her bouts in Argentina, since she knows who her main opponents will be. 

"And also just a bit of a recovery because I know as soon as I get out of this, it's going to be basically go hard until the qualification happens," she said.

"It's definitely unfortunate, but I know you know there's a lot of people in similar situations, we're all you know restricted to some degree right now. Yeah, we just have to go with that."

Bujold, a two-time Pan American Games champion, hopes to be the first female to box for Canada at consecutive Olympics.

An illness derailed Bujold's dreams at the 2016 Rio Games. Hours before her quarterfinal loss to China's Ren Cancan, she was in hospital on an I.V.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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