TOKYO (Reuters) - Mandy Bujold won a lengthy fight outside the ring to punch her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics but the Canadian flyweight ultimately ran out of steam on Sunday, going down to Serbian Nina Radovanovic in the opening round.
Bujold was among the top flyweights in the world before taking maternity leave in 2018 but after qualifying events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was left with no other option but to seek legal help.
An International Olympic Committee boxing task force decided to use results from three tournaments over an 11-month period between 2018 and 2019 to determine Tokyo boxing berths, during which time Bujold was not competing.
Bujold took an appeal against the governing body to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled that qualification criteria must accommodate women who were pregnant or had just given birth.
"I don't want to make any excuses," she said on Sunday. "I continued to train throughout. My focus had lots of ups and downs. There were times I would start my workout and I was in tears because of something that had just happened.
"It was a big roller-coaster."
The absence of a crowd at the Kokugikan Arena, which hosts sumo wrestling, did not help Bujold against Radovanovic, who won in a unanimous decision on points.
"There were obviously a lot of challenges along the way to get here, and there was a very different atmosphere now," said the 34-year-old, who made the sign of a heart with her hands towards the camera for her daughter.
"Even walking out, it kind of felt it was more like a club show as compared to the Olympics with no fans or anything to get your energy. I was trying to find that internally, trying to pump myself up and it's difficult."
Bujold, whose daughter has never seen her box, plans to write a tell-all book about her fight against the IOC and was glad to have made a difference for future women boxers.
"I'm proud that I'm a two-time Olympian," she said. "I still made it here and the battle to get here is often harder than the battle fought in the ring.
"There are a lot of women in this Olympics that are mothers and plenty of them are at the top of their game and that's OK, it's good to show what they continue to do even though they have a family. I think we are setting the stage for the next generation to come."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Karishma Singh)