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6 May, 2021 11:57

‘Craven virtue signaling’: Uproar as 43yo weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first transgender athlete at Olympics

‘Craven virtue signaling’: Uproar as 43yo weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first transgender athlete at Olympics

Fans have reacted with fury after Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter who competed in men's competitions before transitioning in 2013, was announced as being in line to take on women at the Tokyo Olympic Games later this year.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) confirmed that Hubbard, who was the subject of a failed Australian weightlifting federation bid to ban her from participating in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, is "very likely" to be allocated a quota spot for the showpiece this summer.

Organizers added that the development had materialized because the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) had amended its qualifying criteria as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a complex list of absentees from various countries has further increased Hubbard's chances of being at the games.

The NZOC will provide slots based on athletes' potential to finish in the top 16 and threaten the top eight. Super-heavyweight Hubbard is currently 16th in the world rankings and scooped silver at the 2017 world championships.

She has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015, when the IOC allowed transgender athletes to compete as women providing their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

The news was almost unanimously slated by readers, many of whom rushed to correct the headlines by branding Hubbard a "cheat" who had sought a place in the women's sport because she had struggled for success among men.

"There is nothing positive about this move," said one. "It's a craven bit of virtue-signaling that history will look back on with utter disbelief and contempt."

Others claimed that the move was a blow to competitors born as women, with one labeling it "nonsense" and a "war on women" as others even suggested rivals should boycott the competition.

"This is the problem: a woman will have already lost a chance to compete at the Olympics – the thing they will have sacrificed so much for," argued a critic in reply. "You can't ask other women to do the same."

The issue of potentially banning transgender athletes from competition has been a fierce topic of debate recently, with many US states blocking or passing legislation on trans college hopefuls taking part in female sports.

A number of lifters and coaches complained when Hubbard was due to compete at the Commonwealth Games, although she later withdrew through an injury that almost forced her to retire.

Hubbard has been vocal about her career on her purported Twitter account, where she frequently tells the public of her wish to be refered to with the pronoun "they".

"If anyone thinks that a person would be willing to change one’s gender just to win at sport, they clearly do not understand that individual’s struggles and are far too quick to make small-minded, bigoted judgements," Hubbard said earlier this year, in between berating UK prime minister Boris Johnson as a "moron" and castigating British activist and commentator Nigel Farage.

"Look at your own behaviours before casting such ugly aspersions. Our individuality makes us special.

"Be special, but most of all learn to love everyone for their individuality.

"Don’t hate because you’re frightened of someone’s uniqueness. Peace and love to all."

Supporters of trans athletes competing in female sports have frequently pointed to the scarcity of transitioned competitors winning medals, but one commentor voiced fears that Hubbard's involvement would be used as a stunt to further the argument that no unfair competitive advantage is involved.

"I predict a close contest with a couple of failed attempts before winning with the narrowest of margins," they said.

"Gold medal without dominating. PR exercise."

A fellow cynic replied: "I am absolutely sure this will happen. He might even take a silver."

The NZOC said it expected the nomination and selection process to take place in June.

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