WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Laurel Hubbard lifted 628 pounds (185 kilograms) in two attempts to qualify for the women’s super heavyweight division at the Tokyo Olympics.
It was overweight, but had nothing to do with the metaphorical burden that Hubbard took as the first trance athlete to compete in the Olympics.
Hubbard was one of five confirmed weightlifters in the New Zealand squad for Tokyo on Monday. At 43, she will be the oldest weightlifter and was ranked fourth in the women’s 87kg (192 lb) competition on August 2.
Hubbard won silver at the 2017 World Cup and gold at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. In 2018 he participated in the Commonwealth Games, but was seriously injured, which slowed down his life.
“I am grateful and honored for the kindness and support I have received from so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement. “When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, my sporting career was said to be over. But your support, your encouragement and your aroha (love) led me into the dark.”
What makes Hubbard an extra burden is that her efforts have kept her at the center of the debate over whether it is fair for trance athletes to compete in women’s divisions. He was the target of anger and ridicule and received criticism from some competitors.
Eight years ago, at the age of 35, Hubbard was replaced. Since then he has met all the requirements of the International Olympic Committee on trans athletes and fair competition.
Anna Van Bellingen of Belgium, who could compete against Hubbard, said his presence would be “like a bad joke” to rivals.
“I know it is very difficult to define the legal framework for trance participation in sports because there are countless different situations and it is not possible to reach a completely satisfactory solution to all sides of the debate,” Vanbellingen said. “However, anyone who has trained in high quality weightlifting knows this to be true: in this particular situation, it is unreasonable for sports and female athletes.”
“Of course, this debate takes place in the broader context of discrimination against transgender people, which is why this issue can never be left out of ideology,” he added.
Other athletes and members of the weightlifting federation have claimed that Hubbard has a natural benefit in physiology and strength.
Hubbard does not usually provide interviews. In 2017, he told the New Zealand website Stuff that his strategy was to “focus on the task” when facing criticism.
“I know I don’t have everyone’s support, but I hope people can see my work in a broader context with an open mind,” he said.
“It took so long for someone like me to come, which means that the issues that people suggest are not what they appear to be,” he added.
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