By AJ Willingham
New Zealand athlete Laurel Hubbard recently won the Australian International weightlifting competition, and made history in the process. For one, she set a new national record for the women’s “clean and jerk,” an achievement she hopes with put her on the path to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
She also became the first transgender woman to represent New Zealand at such an event — a detail that has drawn praise and criticism.
For critics, the big wrinkle here lies somewhere between her margin of victory — the second-place finisher lifted about 41 pounds (19 kg) less than her — and the fact that Hubbard competed as a man before her transition.
Some other competitors at the event said her inclusion gives her an unfair advantage. “We all deserve to be on an even playing field,” a fellow female weightlifter told New Zealand news channel 1 News Now.
Weightlifting competition is broken into weight classes, and Hubbard’s dominance has forced at least one close competitor, Olympic lifter Tracey Lambrechs, to adjust her weight to compete in another class to regain any hope of winning.
Hubbard, 39, began transitioning in her 30s. Before that, she competed in weightlifting events as Gavin Hubbard.
Within her right
Despite the controversy, Olympic rules state Hubbard is within her right to compete. IOC guidelines for female transgender athletes only require that the athletes pass a series of hormone tests, which Hubbard did.
The president of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand reaffirmed this policy, and Hubbard’s eligibility. “We have to follow the policy of the International Olympic Committee and the International Weightlifting Federation,” Garry Marshall told the New Zealand Herald. “They do not acknowledge in any way the gender identity of an athlete other than male or female; they’re not described as transgender.”