KW & Area Athlete of the Year Awards: a celebration of local sports 

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April 2024

The path to achieving athletic greatness is seldom walked alone. 

It’s a journey Kitchener boxer Mandy Bujold knows all about. 

Bujold’s career is impressive. It started with a Canadian national championship in 2006 that eventually propelled her to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016 and Tokyo, Japan in 2020. 

Gold medals at the 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games can be found in between. 

With all of her success, one thing was never lost on Mandy – the importance of community. A community that supported her dreams and the community she now gives back to in hopes of motivating others. 

That’s what made being nominated for the KW & Area Athlete of the Year award in 2008, 2015 and 2020, and winning it twice, so special. 

“It was awesome,” Bujold said of hearing her named called as the recipient of the award. 

Mandy Bujold receiving her nominee certificate from Ann Bilodeau at the 2020 KW Athlete of the Year awards
Mandy Bujold receives her nominee certificate from Ann Bilodeau at the 2020 Athlete of the Year awards (Photo: KWSA)

“Winning a fight is one thing, but being recognized for your accomplishments is great. It’s a huge honour to be named the KW Athlete of the Year. There’s always a wide range of athletes nominated and if you represent your sport well inside and out, I think that’s what’s most important.” 

As impressive as her heavy hands are, it’s her caring nature outside the ring that sets her apart. 

The Champions for Charity boxing event she founded raises money for the McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation. 

She’s also an avid inspirational speaker, talking about everything from goal setting and learning from failure, to breaking down barriers for women. 

Her skill, dedication and tenacity is what earned her two local awards, and will be a prerequisite of anyone selected at the 2024 ceremony on May 29. 

And Mandy would know, as she’s now part of the selection committee. 

“My drive and determination for excellence is how I want to be remembered,” she said. 

“I’ve had a great career in the ring, and everything I’ve ever done I’ve done to the best of my ability.” 

Sandra Hanmer, who sits alongside Bujold and is Chair of the selection committee, believes there’s no better way to honour individuals who devote their life to sport. 

“I think the award is a good way to recognize athlete accomplishments and provide opportunities for inspiration and mentorship,” Hanmer, who’s been on the committee for four years, said. 

“We’ve had some amazing recipients during my time and what’s really impressed me about all of them is their skill and athleticism and their commitment to giving back to the community.” 

Notable past recipients of the KW & Area Athlete of the Year award include NBA star Jamal Murray (2017), NHL centre Mark Scheifele (2016) and Canadian Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team member and Paralympian, Tyler Miller (2013).

Jamal Murrary receives the KW Athlete of the Year Award from Dave McLelland at the 2017 awards ceremony
Jamal Murray receives his 2017 KW & Area Athlete of the Year award (Photo: KWSA)

Hanmer says in some cases, the work away from competition can be the tipping point in the process. 

If nothing else, it’s certainly considered. 

This year’s recipient will be honoured for their success in 2023. Making the right choice is a fine balancing act that requires lengthy research and the weighing of accomplishments in various sports against one another. 

“All of the nominees are worthy,” Hanmer said. 

“I want people to be proud of the many amazing individuals we have living here that are driven by their passion and what sport can contribute to their personal lives and the community.” 

The Explore Waterloo Region Sport Hosting Office (SHO) serves as a presenting sponsor for this year’s 25th anniversary celebration of the Athlete of the Year and is proud to shine a spotlight on local athletes and sport organizations.

“At our core, Explore Waterloo Region exists to showcase our community as a destination, why this is a good place to live, work, play and visit,” Allister Scorgie, Director of Sport Hosting at Explore Waterloo Region explains.

“The KW Athlete of the Year Awards align strongly with these values. It’s a no-brainer that we would be a supporter of the organizers, nominees and recipients from our community.” 

Having grown up in New Hamburg, Scorgie knows just how distant a professional or Olympic sports dream can seem. But each year, seeing what each of the nominees has accomplished closes that gap. 

Ultimately, the ceremony gives the region a chance to celebrate all athletes, and where their dreams first started. 

“Each year, we hear about accomplished nominees who have played in our local rinks and gyms, trained with local coaches and in every case are supported by their family, friends and community,” Scorgie said. 

“I think this event reinforces it’s okay for us to be proud of our community, proud of the ambassadors we’ve created in sport and the infrastructure and support that helped them get to where they are.” 

2024 KW & Area Athlete of the Year
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Community Pavilion, Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex

The group of nominees for the 2011 KW Athlete of the Year Awards gathered together on stage
Photo: KWSA

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