The first openly transgender athlete to compete in an Olympic event has failed to make the grade and was eliminated from her weightlifting competition on Monday, according to several reports.
New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard, born a biological male but who competed as a transgender woman in the female weightlifting competition, could not advance in the +87kg competition in Tokyo.
In her first attempt, Hubbard, 43, could not make the 120kg (264 lbs.). In her second attempt, she barely managed to hoist 125kg (275 lbs), leading one female commentator to comment she found it odd that the lift wasn’t challenged on an appeal.
But on Hubbard’s third attempt, she was unable to lift 125kg, which eliminated her from the competition.
On the surface, her failure to advance will likely give ammunition to transgender advocates who claim that biological males don’t have inherent physical advantages over women in female sports competitions.
“I’m glad we can now acknowledge that the “advantage” argument was pure transphobia,” one Twitter user wrote in response to the news of Hubbard’s loss.
“Part of the plan…opens the door for more transgenders,” another wrote.
Whether it does or not, however, the general consensus among many sports enthusiasts and professional athletes is that biological men should not compete against biological women regardless of the outcome.
Also, several female athletes have spoken about how they have lost out on career-advancing opportunities to biological males being allowed to compete against them.
One of them is female weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, who is in competition against Hubbard.
“First off, I would like to stress that I fully support the transgender community and that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity,” she said last month.
“I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations, and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible,” she continued.
“However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes,” Vanbellinghen added.
“I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes, the whole thing feels like a bad joke,” she said. “Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless.”
Olympic medalist Sharron Davies added in a tweet, “We have men & women’s separate competition [for] a BIG reason, biology in sport matters. Separate categories give females equal opportunities of sporting success.”
Nevertheless, Hubbard had support from the International Olympic Committee, the games’ governing body.
IOC medical and science director Dr. Richard Budgett offered praise last week for the trans weightlifter while claiming “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”
“To put it in a nutshell, the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015,” Budgett noted. “There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation.
“So Laurel Hubbard is a woman and is competing under the rules of her federation, and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games,” Budgett added.
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