A biological male weightlifter competing as a woman in the Commonwealth Games lost the gold medal after trying to lift far more weight than was needed for victory.
Laurel Hubbard, formerly known as Gavin Hubbard before “transitioning” into a female identity five years ago, was expected to easily defeat Australian weightlifter Deb Lovely-Acason in the finals of women’s 90kg-plus weightlifting Monday.
Competing for the New Zealand team, Hubbard suffered a “horror elbow injury” when attempting to set a personal and Commonwealth record by lifting 132 kg (291 lbs). Hubbard was already far ahead of the nearest adversary, Feagaiga Stowers of Samoa, who had lifted 113kg. After Hubbard’s injury, Stowers went on to win the gold medal.
Touted as “a triumph for human rights and open opportunity,” the decision to allow Hubbard to compete as a female tested the limits of political correctness as other competitors cried foul.
The Samoan coaches protested the presence of a biological male competing as a woman weightlifter, suggesting that despite his/her chosen gender identity he/she still has the anatomy and strength of a male.
“A man is a man and a woman is a woman and I know a lot of changes have gone through, but in the past Laurel Hubbard used to be a male champion weightlifter,” Samoan head coach Jerry Wallwork told the ABC.
“The strength is still there and I think it’s very unfair, and for all females it’s unfair,” he said.
Hubbard defended the decision to try to lift more weight than necessary, saying: “I think you have to be true to yourself, and I hope in this case that’s what I’ve done.”
It is unclear at the point the extent of the physical damage caused by the injury.
“At this stage we don’t know the exact details of the injury. It seems likely that I have ruptured a ligament or … some fairly significant tissue damage, but until we have further scanning we won’t know the details or extent of the injury,” Hubbard said.
Prior to switching genders, Hubbard had competed as a male weightlifter for the New Zealand team. Hubbard was judged eligible to compete as a woman last year after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee.
Hubbard crushed rivals at the Australian International weightlifting competition in Melbourne in March 2017, making four new records.
Writing for the New Zealand Herald on Sunday, Kris Shannon proposed that Hubbard would be an ideal candidate to represent New Zealand as national flag bearer for the games. “No other athlete shines as bright a beacon for inspiration and equality as Hubbard,” she wrote.
“And no other athlete at these Games is as important, given the gradual fight for LGBT rights in and outside of sport,” she wrote.
Glamour Magazine came under heavy fire in 2015 when it chose the former Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner as “woman of the year.”
In one searing commentary, Nicole Russell wrote that by naming Jenner as woman of the year, “Glamour endorses the idea that men are better at being women than we are.”
“Jenner might feel like he is a woman,” she argued, “he might want to be a woman, he might be living as a woman, but thoughts do not generate biology or reality.”
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