A transgender weightlifter from New Zealand has sparked controversy after winning a women’s competition on Sunday, beating a Samoan athlete in the process.
Laurel Hubbard, 39, a transgender female athlete who transitioned to a woman in her 30s and previously competed in the men’s weightlifting category as Gavin Hubbard, won the women’s over 90kg division at the Australian International in Melbourne on Sunday and stands in line to represent New Zealand at the 2017 Commonwealth Games.
She lifted 268kgs and was almost 20kg better than the runner-up, Samoan athlete luniarra Sipaia.
Despite that Hubbard met the criteria set by the International Olympic Committee, the transgender athlete’s victory sparked criticism among the competitors, claiming Hubbard had an advantage in the female weightlifting category.
One Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, Tracey Lumbrechs, who was forced to lose weight due to Hubbard’s success in order to compete in a lower division, expressed uneasiness with the athlete’s eligibility.
Another weightlifter told 1News Now that Hubbard’s eligibility could be unfair. “We all deserve to be on an even playing field,” said Deborah Acason. “It’s difficult when you believe that you’re not. If it’s not even, why are we doing the sport?”
Acason added that certain adjustments should be made to reflect the disadvantaged female weightlifters. “We’ve got two categories here, it’s been great that women can do the sport of weightlifting … but I think we need to look at a decision where we can give people in this situation, have a category where everyone can compete on an even playing field.”