Record-Setting Biological Male to Compete in Women’s Weightlifting at Olympics

Julia Johnson | June 21, 2021 | 5:09pm EDT
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Laurel Hubbard
(Getty Images/Adrian Dennis/AFP)

On Monday, New Zealand selected a biological man who identifies as a female to compete in women’s weightlifting in this year’s summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete in the games, where she will compete in the women’s super-heavyweight 87-Kilogram category, according to Reuters. Hubbard went through male puberty and has lived the majority of her life as a man. The 43 year-old transitioned eight years ago in 2013.

Before transitioning, Hubbard was a record-setting men’s weightlifter named Gavin, ESPN reports:

“Competing as Gavin Hubbard, her birth name, Hubbard set national records in junior competition and had a best, combined snatch and clean and jerk total of 300 kilograms (661 pounds).”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires that athletes who transition from male to female must declare their gender identity and cannot change that status for the next four years. 

Save Women’s Sports Australasia expressed disappointment with Hubbard’s selection, with founder Katherine Deves telling Reuters TV that "Males do have a performance advantage that is based on their biological sex." “They outperform us on every single metric - speed, stamina, strength,” Deves said. “Picking testosterone is a red herring, she added. “We are forgetting about the anatomy, the fast, rich muscle, the bigger organs."

Transgender women, who are biological men, retain their athletic advantages over women even after one year of hormone therapy, according to a study conducted in late 2020 by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) Chief Kereyn Smith called Hubbard’s selection a “historic moment in sport and for the New Zealand team,” despite the objections of both present and former Olympic athletes.

"When I was told to drop the category because Laurel was obviously going to be their number one super, it was heartbreaking, like super soul-destroying," former Olympian Tracey Lambrechs told TVNZ.

“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," Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen told Inside The Games.

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