International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach will visit Japan in May, the Kyodo News agency said on Saturday, as the nation struggles to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases before the start of the Games. Bach will attend a torch relay ceremony in the western city of Hiroshima on May 17 and meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga the next day, Kyodo said, citing sources close to the matter.
TORONTO — Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold has hit another huge road block in Tokyo Olympic qualifying. This one might be insurmountable. After a competitive year wiped out by COVID-19, the 11-time national flyweight champion from Kitchener, Ont., had hoped to fight her way into an Olympic berth at the Americas Olympic qualifier scheduled for next month in Buenos Aires. But amid rising cases of the global pandemic in Argentina, the event was cancelled on Thursday. "To say I'm heartbroken would be an understatement," Bujold tweeted. The 49 quota spots slated to be awarded at the event will now be allocated via IOC Boxing Task Force ranking. Bujold doesn't have the ranking because she took time off to give birth -- her daughter Kate was born in the summer of 2018 -- and then the pandemic wiped out last season's schedule. She has had top-three podium finishes since her return from childbirth, but none in events that contributed to the selection rankings. "There were literally three events in the last 16 years I didn't attend, and of course, those are the three that are being considered for ranking points," she said. The two-time Pan American Games champion wasn't seeded for the Olympic qualifier, but she said "I was confident that I could fight my way to the top four and then qualify myself. "Now they're taking away that only opportunity that I have to actually be able to prove that hey, I'm still here. I didn't go anywhere. That's the most frustrating part is not being able to actually prove, and (show) all the work that you've been putting in. . . . All the training camps and all the the money and the time. Oh, man, it's just unreal." The continental qualifiers were originally scrapped last March due to the global pandemic. Bujold would be the first female to box for Canada at consecutive Olympics. An illness derailed her dreams at the 2016 Rio Games. Hours before her quarter-final loss to China's Ren Cancan, she was ill in hospital on an I.V. She had to settle for fifth. Bujold wonders about the fairness of an Olympics that will see some top athletes unable to qualify. "I understand that the organizing committee, and everybody, they're all trying to deal with this as it's happening, so it's not like I'm trying to put blame on anybody," Bujold said. "But you're trying to create an Olympics, and the Olympics is supposed to be the best of the best athletes. And now we're in a situation, and we know it's not just us, I think there's what 35 sports that are still looking to qualify . . . you're not necessarily going to get the best people, you're going to get the people who kind of happen to fall within the new criteria." Bujold hadn't been monitoring the COVID-19 cases in Argentina or at home, because "it just causes stress and worry." "I'm just trying to stay focused on what I'm doing. Maintaining my little home and gym. And that's basically all I do," she said. Both Argentina and Ontario are reeling in the pandemic's third wave. After recording more than 52,000 new cases combined on Tuesday and Wednesday, Argentina announced it was closing schools and implementing a curfew in an effort to flatten its steep spike. "I feel like even the uncertainty of the Olympics, how are they even going to be able to put all this together? I don't know," Bujold said. "In my mind, I guess you got to keep fighting, you got to keep pushing. And while there's an Olympics to push for, I still know in the back of my mind that there's a chance that the Olympics still gets called off." Cancellation of the qualifier affects the entire Canadian boxing team. Bujold believes just two women -- Tammara Thibeault and Myriam Da Silva -- are ranked high enough to earn quota spots. Bujold has spoken to a lawyer who believes she has a discrimination case based on her maternity absence. She hopes Boxing Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee go to bat for her, in perhaps persuading the IOC to rethink its ranking criteria. Boxing Canada didn't respond to a request for comment. It's been a rough year for Canadian boxers that goes beyond the absence of competition. In February, Bujold and 18 of her teammates were forced into isolation after national team training in Montreal was cut short due to a positive COVID-19 test. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
The investigation into a complaint from members of the Canadian women's rugby sevens team has been completed. But Rugby Canada says it is "still in the process of sharing the confidential findings with the involved parties." A spokesman said Rugby Canada expects to "be in a position to issue a statement shortly." Rugby Canada disclosed the complaint in early February, saying it had called in an independent investigator and revamped the team coaching staff. The sevens side is coached by John Tait, a former Canadian international who serves as Rugby Canada's director of women's high performance. The 47-year-old coached the sevens women to a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and gold at the 2015 Pan-American Games. In a five-paragraph release Feb. 5, Rugby Canada did not name Tait, say who was the subject of the investigation or specify the complaint. But Tait did not figure in the new-look coaching setup. In a subsequent email, Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said "matters related to employees are confidential.'' Vansen said he could not provide further details about the complaint other than to say: "I can certainly share that the complaints are from multiple individuals.'' Tait, in a text to The Canadian Press when the complaint was disclosed, said he could not comment but hoped to be able to speak on the matter in the coming weeks. "It's surreal,'' he said. Tait, an imposing figure at six foot eight, won 37 caps for Canada from 1997 to 2002. He played professionally in Wales with Cardiff and France with CA Brive. He has been a coaching constant at Rugby Canada for more than a decade, having served as an assistant coach with the men's 15s team and head coach of the women's 15s team prior to taking over the sevens women. Last August, the father of three was given additional responsibilities, handed the high-performance role on the women's side in addition to his sevens head coaching duties. Team captain Ghislaine Landry confirmed that the complaint was made by members of the team but declined further comment. In the original statement, Vansen said: "Rugby Canada is taking these concerns very seriously. We are following our internal policies and procedures that are in alignment with established national response guidelines, and in a manner that reflects our values.'' Mick Byrne, a specialist coach with both New Zealand and Australia who has consulted remotely with the Canadian sevens side since 2012, was appointed interim head coach. The Canadian women are currently training in Dubai, where they won one invitational event and finished runner-up in another recently. The Olympic rugby sevens competition is scheduled for July 26-31 in Tokyo with the Canadian women a medal threat. They were third in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings when the season shut down after five events last year, having finished runner-up at three events and third at a fourth. Canada was third overall the previous season, lifting the trophy at the Kitakyushu Sevens in Japan in April 2019. It marked the first cup win for the Canadian women since 2017. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021 Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press