A New Zealand weightlifter who failed to advance beyond the first round in the Olympics has been named “Sportswoman of the Year.”
Laurel Hubbard, who became the first openly transgender Olympic competitor, was honored by the University of Otago last week, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Hubbard, 43, caused controversy by making the Olympics, leading to a debate over whether biological women who should have been in the competition were pushed aside in the rules that allowed him to compete as a woman.
Hubbard formerly had competed in weightlifting events as a man.
Once the competition began, Hubbard failed to successfully lift in the first part of the women’s 87kg event.
Hubbard said he was ”grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University.”
“This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey,” he said, thanking everyone who supported him.
Many said that athletes who achieved success were more deserving of the award.
Doesn’t make a lift. Gets knocked out. Sports woman of the year.
Probs not politically motivated vote, though.
— Gareth Icke ?? (@garethicke) October 2, 2021
Someone needs to send them a dictionary. So they can look up the words woman and man. https://t.co/FF36S0uAzZ
— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) October 2, 2021
Lisa carrington became NZ most decorated Olympian. Yet Laurel Hubbard who failed to even register a lift despite having a massive biological advantage over the competition won sports woman of the year.
They are laughing in the faces of female athletes and sports. What an insult
— Sophie Corcoran (@sophielouisecc) October 2, 2021
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) October 2, 2021
Otago University Students’ Association President Michaela Waite-Harvey said Hubbard deserved the prize.
”We could think of no one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics,” Waite-Harvey said.
Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said that giving Hubbard the chance to compete was unfair to others.
“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 said in a statement to Inside The Games.
But Vanbellinghen said a dose of common sense and fairness to women should have been in the mix of factors when it was decided to allow a man who had competed as a weightlifter for many years to compete against women.
“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,” she said, acknowledging that taking steroids can have a major benefit to an athlete even years after taking them.
“So why is it still a question whether two decades, from puberty to the age of 35, with the hormonal system of a man also would give an advantage,” she said, referring to Hubbard’s past competitions as a man.
“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.
Vanbellinghen said Olympic rules that open the door for Hubbard slam it shut on others.
“Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless,” she said.
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